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GIFT OF ^ „. 


A Sack of Shakin2;s 



Crown Svo, 6s. 


By Halliwell Sutcliffe 


By Helen Mathers 


By Bessie Hatton 


By Louis Becke and Walter 


Ev George Griffith 


By Mrs. C. N. Williamson 


By Richard Marsh 


By Louis Tracy 


By Headon Hill 


By Inglis Allen 


By Bret Harte 


By William Westall 


By Florence Wardkn 

Second Edition 


By F. Frankfort Moore 


By Bernard Capes 


Bv Major Arthur Griffiths 

By F. M. White 


By Paul Gushing 

Fourth Edition 

By F. Frankfort Moore 

By Headon Hill 

Second Edition 


By Guy Boothby 

By G. Guise Mitford 


A Sack of Shakings 


Frank T. Bullen, F.R.G.S. 

Author of 

"The Cruise of the Cachalot," "With Christ at Sea,'' 

"The Men of the Merchant Service," etc. 

C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd. 

Henrietta Street 




Most of the Essays brought together in the 
present volume have been published in the 
Spectator^ and are here reproduced by the kind 
permission of the proprietors of that journal, for 
which I offer them my hearty thanks. It may 
perhaps not be out of place to mention, for the 
benefit of any who may wish to know why these 
Articles have been published in book form, that 
the action has been taken in deference to the 
wishes of a very large number of friends who, 
having read the sketches in the Spectator, desired 
to have them collected in a permanent and 
handy shape. 



The Orphan . 
A Porpoise Myth 
Cats on Board Ship . 
The Old East Indiaman 
The Floor of the Sea 
Shakespeare and the Sea 
The Skipper of the "Amulet 
Among the Enchanted Isles 
Sociable Fish 
Alligators and Mahogany 
Country Life on Board Ship 
"The Way of a Ship" 

Sea Etiquette 


A Battleship of To-day . 

Nat's Monkey 

Big Game at Sea. 

A Sea Change 

Last Voyage of the " Sarah Jane 


Ocean Winds 

The Sea in the New Testament 



















The Polity of a Battleship 276 

The Privacy of the Sea 284 

The Voices of the Sea 292 

The Calling of Captain Ramirez . '. . . 302 

Marathon of the Seals 313 

Ocean Currents . 319 

The Undying Romance of the Sea . . . 327 

Sailors' Pets 334 

The Survivors 341 

Beneath the Surface 351 

By Way of Amends 361 

The Mystery of the "Solander" . . . .371 

Our Amphibious Army 381 


A Sack of Shakines 


Shining serenely as some immeasurable mirror be- 
neath the smiling face of heaven, the solitary ocean 
lay in unrippled silence. It was in those placid 
latitudes south of the line in the Pacific, where 
weeks, aye months, often pass without the marginless 
blue level being ruffled by any wandering keel. Here, 
in almost perfect security from molestation by man, 
the innumerable denizens of the deep pursue their 
never-ending warfare, doubtless enjoying to the full 
the brimming cup of life, without a weary moment, 
and with no dreary anticipations of an unwanted 
old age. 

Now it fell on a day that the calm surface of that 
bright sea was broken by the sudden upheaval of a 
compact troop of sperm whales from the inscrutable 
depths wherein they had been roaming and recruiting 
their gigantic energies upon the abundant molluscs, 
hideous of mien and insatiable of maw, that, like 
creations of a diseased mind, lurked far below the 
sunshine. The school consisted of seven cows and 
one mighty bull, who was unique in appearance, 
for instead of being in colour the unrelieved sepia 

I A 

A Sack of Shakings 

common to his kind he was curiously mottled with 
creamy white, making the immense oblong cube of 
his head look like a weather-worn monolith of Siena 
marble. Easeful as any Arabian khalif, he lolled 
supine upon the glittering folds of his couch, the 
welcoming wavelets caressing his vast form with 
gentlest touch, and murmuring softly as by their 
united efforts they rocked him in rhythm with their 
melodic lullaby. Around him glided his faithful 
harem — gentle timid creatures, no one of them a 
third of their lord's huge bulk, but still majestic in 
their proportions, being each some forty-five feet in 
length by thirty in girth. Unquestionably the monarch 
of the flood, their great chief accepted in complacent 
dignity their unremitting attentions, nor did their 
playful gambols stir him in the least from his attitude 
of complete repose. 

But while the busy seven were thus disporting 
themselves in happy security there suddenly appeared 
among them a delightful companion in the shape of 
a newly-born calf, elegantly dappled like his sire, the 
first-born son of the youngest mother in the group. 
It is not the habit of the cachalot to show that intense 
self-effacing devotion to its young which is evinced 
by other mammals, especially whales of the mysticetae. 
Nevertheless, as the expectation of this latest addition 
to the family had been the reason of their visit to 
these quiet latitudes, his coming made a pleasant little 
ripple of satisfaction vibrate throughout the group. 
Even the apparently impenetrable stolidity of the head 
of the school was aroused into some faint tokens of 
interest in the new-comer, who clung leech-Hke to 


The Orphan 

his mother's side, vigorously draining the enormous 
convexity of her bosom of its bounteous flood of 
milk. So well did he thrive, that at the end of a 
week the youngster was able to hold his own with 
the school in a race, and competent also to remain 
under w^ater quite as long as his mother. Then the 
stately leader signified to his dependants that the 
time was now at hand when they must change their 
pleasant quarters. Food was less plentiful than it 
had been, w^hich was but natural, remembering the 
ravages necessarily made by such a company of 
monsters. Moreover, a life of continual ease and 
slothful luxury such as of late had been theirs was 
not only favourable to the growth of a hampering 
investiture of parasites — barnacles, limpets, and weed 
— all over their bodies, but it completely unfitted 
them for the stern struggle awaiting them, when in 
their periodical progress round the world they should 
arrive on the borders of the fierce Antarctic Zone. 
And besides all these, had they forgotten that they 
were liable to meet with man ! A sympathetic 
shudder ran through every member of the school 
at that dreaded name, under the influence of which 
they all drew closer around their chief, sweeping their 
broad flukes restlessly from side to side and breathing 

The outcome of the conference, decided, as human 
meetings of the kind are apt to be, by the com- 
manding influence of one master will, was that on 
the next day they would depart for the south by 
easy stages through the teeming ''off-shore" waters 
of South America. All through that quiet night the 


A Sack of Shakings 

mighty creatures lay almost motionless on the surface, 
each the opaque centre of a halo of dazzling emerald 
light, an occasional drowsy spout from their capacious 
lungs sliding through the primeval stillness like the 
sigh of some weary Titan. When at last the steel- 
blue dome above, with its myriad diamond spangles, 
began to throb and glow with tremulous waves of 
lovely vari-coloured light flowing before the conquer- 
ing squadrons of the sun, the whole troop, in open 
order about their guide, turned their heads steadfastly 
to the south-west, steering an absolutely undeviating 
course for their destination by their innate sense of 
direction alone. Up sprang the flaming sun, a vast 
globe of fervent fire that even at the horizon's edge 
seemed to glow with meridian strength. And right 
in the centre of his blazing disc appeared three 
tiny lines, recognisable even at that distance by the 
human eye as the masts of a ship whose hull was 
as yet below the apparent meeting-place of sea and 
sky. This apparition lay fairly in the path of the 
advancing whales, who, unhappily for them, possessed 
but feeble vision, and that only at its best straight 
behind them. So on they went in leisurely fashion, 
occasionally pausing for a dignified descent in search 
of food, followed by an equally stately reappear- 
ance and resumption of their journey. Nearer and 
nearer they drew to the fatal area wherein they 
would become visible to the keen-eyed watchers at 
the mast-head of that lonely ship, still in perfect 
ignorance of any possible danger being at hand. 
Suddenly that mysterious sense owned by them, 
which is more than hearing, gave warning of ap- 


The Orphan 

preaching peril. All lay still, though quivering 
through every sinew of their huge bodies with the 
apprehension of unknown enemies, their heads half 
raised from the sparkling sea-surface and their fins 
and flukes testing the vibrations of the mobile 
element like the diaphragm of a phonograph. Even 
the youngling clung to his mother's side as if glued 
thereto under the influence of a terror that, while 
it effectually stilled his sportiveness, gave him no 
hint of what was coming. At the instance of the 
Head all sank silently and stone-like without any 
of those preliminary tail-flourishings and arching of 
the back that always distinguish the unworried whale 
from one that has received alarming news in the 
curious manner already spoken of. They remained 
below so long and went to so great a depth, that all 
except the huge leader were quite exhausted when 
they returned again to the necessary air, not only 
from privation of breath, but from the incalculable 
pressure of the superincumbent sea. So for a brief 
space they lay almost motionless, the valves of their 
spiracles deeply depressed as they drew in great 
volumes of revivifying breath, and their great frames 
limply yielding to the heave of the gliding swell. 
They had scarcely recovered their normal energy 
when into their midst rushed the destroyers, bringing 
with them the realisation of all those paralysing fears. 
First to be attacked was the noble bull, and once 
the first bewildering shock and smart had passed he 
gallantly maintained the reputation of his giant race. 
Every device that sagacity could conceive or fear- 
lessness execute was tried by him, until the troubled 


A Sack of Shakings 

ocean around the combatants was all a-boil, and its 
so recently unsullied surface was littered with tangled 
wreaths of blood-streaked foam. Whether from 
affection or for protection is uncertain, but the rest 
of the family did not attempt to flee. All seven of 
the cows kept close to their lord, often appearing 
as if they would shield him with their own bodies 
from the invisible death-darts that continually pierced 
him to the very seat of his vast vitality. And this 
attachment proved their own destruction, for their 
assailants, hovering around them with the easy 
mobility of birds, slew them at their leisure, not 
even needing to hamper themselves by harpooning 
another individual. Instead, they wielded their long 
lances upon the unresisting females, leaving the 
ocean monarch to his imminent death. So success- 
ful were these tactics that before an hour had flown, 
while yet the violet tint of departing night lingered 
on the western edge of the sea, the last one of those 
mighty mammals had groaned out the dregs of her 
life. Flushed with conquest and breathless from their 
great exertions, the victors lolled restfully back in 
their boats, while all around them upon the incarna- 
dined waters the massy bodies of their prey lay 
gently swaying to the slumberous roll of the silent 

Meanwhile, throughout that stark battle, what of 
the youngling's fate ? By almost a miracle, he had 
passed without scathe. What manner of dread con- 
vulsion of Nature was in progress he could not know 
— he was blind and deaf and almost lifeless with 
terror. With all that wide ocean around him he 


The Orphan 

knew not whither to flee from this day of wrath. Of 
all those who had been to him so brief a space ago 
the living embodiment of invincible might, not one 
remained to help or shield him, none but were 
involved in this cataclysm of blood. His kindred 
were cut off from him, he was overlooked by his 
enemies, and when he came to himself he was alone. 
A sudden frantic impulse seized him, and under its 
influence he fled, fled as the bee flies, but without 
the homing instinct to guide him, southward through 
the calm blue silences of that sleeping ocean. On, 
on, he fled untiring, until behind him the emerald 
sheen of his passage through the now starlit waters 
broadened into a wide blaze of softest light. Before 
him lay the dark, its profound depths just manifested 
by the occasional transient gleam of a palpitating 
medusa or the swift flight of a terrified shark. When 
compelled to break the glassy surface for breath there 
was a sudden splash, and amid the deep sigh from 
his labouring lungs came the musical fall of the 
sparkling spray. When morning dawned again on 
his long objectless flight, unfailing instinct warned 
him of his approach to shallower waters, and with 
slackening speed he went on, through the tender 
diffused sunlight of those dreamy depths, until he 
came to an enormous submarine forest, where the 
trees were fantastic abutments of living coral, the 
leaves and fronds of duU-hued fucus or algae, the 
blossoms of orchid-like sea-anemones or zoophytes, 
and the birds were darting, ghding fish, whose myriad 
splendid tints blazed like illuminated jewels. 

Here, surely, he might be at peace and find some 


A Sack of Shakings 

solace for his loneliness, some suitable food to re- 
place that which he had hitherto always found await- 
ing him, and now would find nevermore. Moving 
gently through the interminably intricate avenues 
of this submarine world of stillness and beauty, his 
small lower jaw hanging down as usual, he found 
abundant store of sapid molluscs that glided down 
his gaping gullet with a pleasant tickling, and were 
soon followed by a soothing sense of hunger satisfied. 
When he rose to spout he was in the midst of a 
weltering turmoil of broken water, where the majestic 
swell fretted and roared in wrath around the hinder- 
ing peaks of a great reef — a group of islands in 
the making. Here, at any rate, he was safe, for no 
land was in sight whence might come a band of his 
hereditary foes, while into that network of jagged 
rocks no vessel would ever dare to venture. After a 
few days of placid enjoyment of this secure existence 
he began to feel courage and independence, although 
still pining for the companionship of his kind. Thus 
he might have gone on for long, but that an adven- 
ture befell him which raised him at once to his 
rightful position among the sea-folk. During his 
rambles through the mazes and glades of this sub- 
aqueous paradise he had once or twice noticed be- 
tween two stupendous columns of coral a black 
space where the water was apparently of fathomless 
depth. Curiosity, one of the strongest influences 
actuating the animate creation, impelled him to 
investigate this chasm, but something, he knew 
not what, probably inherited caution, had hitherto 
held him back. At last, having met with no creature 


The Orphan 

nearly his own size, and grown bold by reason of 
plenteous food, he became venturesome, and made 
for that gloomy abyss, bent upon searching its re- 
cesses thoroughly. Boldly he swept between the 
immense bastions that guarded it, and with a swift 
upward thrust of his broad horizontal tail went 
headlong down, down, down. Presently he saw 
amidst the outer darkness a web of palely gleaming 
lines incessantly changing their patterns and extend- 
ing over an area of a thousand square yards. They 
centred upon a dull ghastly glare that was motion- 
less, formless, indescribable. In its midst there 
was a blackness deeper, if possible, than that of 
the surrounding pit. Suddenly all that writhing 
entanglement wrapped him round, each clutching 
snare fastening upon him with innumerable gnawing 
mouths as if to devour him all over at once. With 
a new and even pleasant sensation thrilling along 
his spine the young leviathan hurled himself for- 
ward at that midmost gap, his powerful jaws clash- 
ing and his whole lithe frame upstrung with nervous 
energy. Right through the glutinous musky mass 
of that unthinkable chimaera he hewed his way, 
heeding not in the least the wrenching, sucking 
coils winding about him, and covering every inch 
of his body. Absolute silence reigned as the great 
fight went on. Its inequality was curiously ab- 
normal. For while the vast amorphous bulk of the 
mollusc completely dwarfed the comparatively puny 
size of the young cachalot, there was on the side of 
the latter all the innate superiority of the vertebrate 
carnivorous mammal with warrior instincts trans- 


A Sack of Shakings 

mitted unimpaired through a thousand generations of 
ocean royalty. Gradually the grip of those clinging 
tentacles relaxed as he felt the succulent gelatinous- 
ness divide, and with a bound he ascended from 
that befouled abysmal gloom into the light and love- 
liness of the upper air. Behind him trailed sundry 
long fragments, disjecta membra of his late antagonist, 
and upon these, after filling his lungs again and again 
with the keen pure air of heaven, he feasted grandly. 

But in spite of the new inspiring sense of conscious 
might and ability to do even as his forefathers had 
done, his loneliness was heavy upon him. For, like 
all mammals, the cachalot loves the fellowship of his 
kin during the days of his strength ; and only when 
advancing age renders him unable to hold his own 
against jealous rivals, or makes him a laggard in the 
united chase, does he forsake the school and wander 
solitary and morose about the infinite solitude of 
his limitless abode. And so, surrounded by the 
abundant evidences of his prowess, the young giant 
meditated, while a hungry host of sharks, like jackals 
at the lion's kill, came prowling up out of the sur- 
rounding silence, and with shrill cries of delight the 
hovering bird-folk gathered in myriads to take tithe 
of his enormous spoil. Unheeding the accumulating 
multitudes, who gave him ample room and verge 
enough, and full of flesh, he lay almost motionless, 
when suddenly that subtle sense which, attuned to the 
faintest vibrations of the mobile sea, kept him warned, 
informed him that some more than ordinary com- 
motion was in progress not many miles away. In- 
stantly every sinew set taut, every nerve tingled with 


The Orphan 

receptivity, while, quivering like some fucus frond in 
a tide rip, his broad tail swayed silently to and fro, 
but so easily as not to stir his body from its attitude 
of intense expectation. A gannet swept over him 
close down, startling him so that with one fierce 
lunge of his flukes he sprang forward twenty yards ; 
but recovering himself he paused again, though the 
impetus still bore him noiselessly ahead, the soothing 
wash of the waves eddying gently around his blunt 
bow. Shortly after, to his unbounded joy, a noble 
company of his own folk hove in sight, two score of 
them in goodliest array. They glided around him in 
graceful curves, wonderingly saluting him by touching 
his small body with fin, nose, and tail, and puzzled 
beyond measure as to how so young a fellow-citizen 
came to be inhabiting these vast wastes alone. His 
tale was soon told, for the whale-people waste no 
interchange of ideas, and the company solemnly 
received him into their midst as a comrade who had 
well earned the right to be one of their band by pro- 
viding for them so great a feast. Swiftly the spoil of 
that gigantic mollusc was rescued from the marauding 
sharks, and devoured ; and thorough was the sub- 
sequent search among those deep-lying darknesses 
for any other monsters of the same breed that might 
lie brooding in their depths. None were to be 
found, although for two days and nights the questing 
leviathans pursued their keen investigations. When 
there remained no longer a cave unfathomed or a 
maze unexplored, the leader of the school, a huge 
black bull of unrivalled fame, gave the signal for 
departure, and away they went in double columns, 

1 1 

A Sack of Shakings 

line ahead, due south, their splendid chief about a 
cable's length in advance. The happy youngster, no 
longer astray from his kind, gambolled about the 
school in unrestrained delight at the rising tide of life 
that surged tumultuously through his vigorous frame. 
Ah ; it was so good to be alive, glorious to speed, 
with body bending bow-wise, and broad fan-like 
flukes spurning the brilliant waves behind him, 
ecstasy to exert all the power he felt in one mad 
upward rush until out into the sunlight high through 
the warm air he sprang, a living embodiment of irre- 
sistible force, and fell with a joyous crash back into 
the welcoming bosom of his native deep. The sedate 
patriarch of the school looked on these youthful freaks 
indulgently, until, fired by the sight of his young 
follower's energy, he too put forth all his incredible 
strength, launching his hundred tons or so of solid 
weight clear of the embracing sea, and returning 
to it again with a shock as of some Polyphemus- 
hurled mountain. 

Thus our orphan grew and waxed great. Together, 
without mishap of any kind, these lords of the flood 
skirted the southern slopes of the globe. In serene 
security they ranged the stormy seas from Kerguelen 
to Cape Horn, from the Falklands to Table Bay. Up 
through the scent-laden straits between Madagascar 
and Mozambique, loitering along the burnii^ shores 
of Zanzibar and Pemba, dallying with the eddies 
around the lonely Seychelles and idling away the 
pleasant north-east monsoon in the Arabian Sea. 
By the Bab-el-Mandeb they entered the Red Sea, 
their majestic array scaring the nomad fishermen at 


The Orphan 

their lonely labour along the reef-besprinkled margins 
thereof, remote from the straight-ruled track down 
its centre along which the unwearied slaves of the 
West, the great steamships, steadily thrust their un- 
deviating way. Here, in richest abundance, they 
found their favourite food, cuttlefish of many kinds, 
although none so large as those haunting the middle 
depths of the outer ocean. And threading the deep 
channels between the reefs great shoals of delicately 
flavoured fish, beguiled by the pearly whitenesses of 
those gaping throats, rushed fearlessly down them 
to oblivion. So quiet w^ere these haunts, so free 
from even the remotest chance of interference by 
man, their only enemy, that they remained for many 
months, even penetrating well up the Gulf of Akaba, 
that sea of sleep whose waters even now retain the 
same primitive seclusion they enjoyed when their 
shores were the cradle of mankind. 

But now a time was fast approaching when our 
hero must needs meet his compeers in battle, if 
haply he might justify his claim to be a leader in 
his turn. For such is the custom of the cachalot. 
The young bulls each seek to form a harem among 
the younger cows of the school, and having done 
so, they break off from the main band and pursue 
their own independent way. This crisis in the career 
of the orphan had been imminent for some time, 
but now, in these untroubled seas, it could no longer 
be delayed. Already several preliminary skirmishes 
had taken place with no definite results, and at last, 
one morning when the sea was like oil for smooth- 
ness, and blazing like burnished gold under the 


A Sack of Shakings 

fervent glare of the sun, two out of the four young 
bulls attacked the orphan at once. All around lay 
the expectant brides ready to welcome the conqueror, 
while in solitary state the mighty leader held aloof, 
doubtless meditating on the coming time when a 
mightier than he should arise and drive him from 
his proud position into lifelong exile. Straight for 
our hero's massive head came his rivals, charging 
along the foaming surface like bluff-bowed torpedo 
rams. But as they converged upon him he also 
charged to meet them, settling slightly at the same 
time. Whether by accident or design I know not, 
but certainly the consequence of this move was that 
instead of their striking him they met one another 
over his back, the shock of their impact throwing 
their great heads out of the sea with a dull boom 
that might have been heard for a mile. Swiftly 
and gracefully the orphan turned head over flukes, 
rising on his back and clutching the nearest of his 
opponents by his pendulous under-jaw. The fury 
of that assault was so* great that the attacked one's 
jaw was wrenched sideways, until it remained at 
right angles to his body, leaving him for the rest 
of his life sorely hampered in even the getting of 
food, but utterly incapable of ever again giving battle 
to one of his own species. Then rushing towards 
the other aggressor the victorious warrior inverted 
his body in the sea, and brandishing his lethal flukes 
smote so doughtily upon his foe that the noise of 
those tremendous blows reverberated for leagues 
over the calm sea, while around the combatants 
the troubled waters were lashed into ridges and 


The Orphan 

islets of snowy foam. Very soon was the battle 
over. Disheartened, sick, and exhausted, the dis- 
abled rival essayed to escape, settling stone-like until 
he lay like some sunken wreck on the boulder- 
bestrewn sea-bed a hundred fathoms down. Slowly, 
but full of triumph, the conqueror returned to the 
waiting school and, selecting six of the submissive 
cows, led them away without any attempt at hin- 
drance on the part of the other two young bulls who 
had not joined in the fray. 

In stately march the new family travelled southward 
out of the Red Sea, along the Somali Coast, past the 
frowning cliffs of Sokotra, and crossing the Arabian 
Sea, skirted at their ease the pleasant Malabar littoral. 
Unerring instinct guided them across the Indian 
Ocean and through the Sunda Straits, until amid the 
intricacies of Celebes they ended their journey for a 
season. Here, with richest food in overflowing abund- 
ance, among undisturbed reef-beds swept by con- 
stantly changing currents, where they might chafe 
their irritated skins clean from the many parasites they 
had accumulated during their long Red Sea sojourn, 
they remained for several seasons. Then, suddenly, 
as calamities usually come, they were attacked by a 
whaler as they were calmly coasting along Timor. 
But never till their dying day did those whale-fishers 
forget that fight. True, they secured two half-grown 
cows, but at what a cost to themselves ! For the 
young leader, now in the full flush of vigorous life, 
seemed not only to have inherited the fighting instincts 
of his ancestors, but also to possess a fund of wily fero- 
city that made him a truly terrible foe. No sooner 


A Sack of Shakings 

did he feel the first keen thrust of the harpoon than, 
instead of expending his strength for naught by a 
series of aimless flounderings, he rolled his huge bulk 
swiftly towards his aggressors, who were busily en- 
gaged in clearing their boat of the hampering sail, 
and perforce helpless for a time. Right down upon 
them came the writhing mass of living flesh, over- 
whelming them as completely as if they had suddenly 
fallen under Niagara. From out of that roaring 
vortex only two of the six men forming the boat's 
crew emerged alive, poor fragments of humanity 
tossing like chips upon the tormented sea. Then 
changing his tactics, the triumphant cachalot glided 
stealthily about just beneath the surface, feeling with 
his sensitive flukes for anything still remaining afloat 
upon which to wreak his newly aroused thirst for 
vengeance. As often as he touched a floating portion 
of the shattered boat, up flew his mighty flukes in a 
moment, and, with a reflex blow that would have 
stove in the side of a ship, he smote it into still smaller 
splinters. This attention to his first set of enemies 
saved the other boats from destruction, for they, using 
all expedition, managed to despatch the two cows they 
had harpooned, and when they returned to the scene 
of disaster, the bull, unable to find anything more to 
destroy, had departed with the remnant of his family, 
and they saw him no more. Gloomily they traversed 
the battle-field until they found the two exhausted 
survivors just feebly clinging to a couple of oars, and 
with them mournfully regained their ship. 

Meanwhile the triumphant bull was slowly making 
his way eastward, sorely irritated by the galling har- 


The Orphan 

poon which was buried deep in his shoulders, and 
wondering what the hundreds of fathoms of traihng 
rope behind him could be. At last coming to a well- 
known reef he managed to get the line entangled 
around some of its coral pillars, and a strenuous 
effort on his part tore out the barbed weapon, leaving 
in its place a ragged rent in his blubber four feet 
long. Such a trifle as that, a mere superficial scratch, 
gave him little trouble, and with the wonderful re- 
cuperative power possessed by all the sea-folk the 
ugly tear was completely healed in a few days. 
Henceforth he was to be reckoned among the most 
dangerous of all enemies to any of mankind daring 
to attack him, for he knew his power. This the 
whalemen found to their cost. Within the next 
few years his fame had spread from Cape Cod to 
Chelyushkin, and wherever two whaleships met for a 
spell of '^ gamming," his prowess was sure to be an 
absorbing topic of conversation. In fact, he became 
the terror of the tortuous passages of Malaysia, and 
though often attacked always managed to make good 
his escape, as well as to leave behind him some 
direful testimony to his ferocious cunning. At last 
he fell in with a ship off Palawan, whose crew were 
justly reputed to be the smartest whale-fishers from 
'' Down East." Two of her boats attacked him one 
lovely evening just before sunset, but the iron drew. 
Immediately he felt the wound he dived perpendicu- 
larly, but describing a complete vertical circle be- 
neath the boat he rose again, striking her almost 
amidships with the front of his head. This, of course, 
hurled the crew everywhere, besides shattering the 

17 B 

A Sack of Shakings 

boat. But reversing himself again on the instant, he 
brandished those awful flukes in the air, bringing 
them down upon the helpless men and crushing three 
of them into dead pieces. Apparently satisfied, he 
disappeared in the gathering darkness. 

When the extent of the disaster became known on 
board the ship, the skipper was speechless with rage 
and grief, for the mate who had been killed was his 
brother, and very dear to him. And he swore that if 
it cost him a season's work and the loss of his ship, he 
would slay that man-killing whale. From that day he 
cruised about those narrow seas offering large rewards 
to any of his men who should first sight his enemy 
again. Several weeks went by, during which not a 
solitary spout was seen, until one morning in Banda 
Strait the skipper himself '^ raised " a whale close in to 
the western verge of the island. Instantly all hands 
were alert, hoping against hope that this might prove 
to be their long-sought foe at last. Soon the welcome 
news came from aloft that it was a sperm whale, and 
an hour later two boats left the ship, the foremost 
of them commanded by the skipper. With him he 
took four small barrels tightly bunged, and an extra 
supply of bomb-lances, in the use of which he was an 
acknowledged expert. As they drew near the uncon- 
scious leviathan they scarcely dared breathe, and, their 
oars carefully peaked, they propelled the boats by 
paddles as silently as the gliding approach of a shark. 
Hurrah ! fast ; first iron. '^ Starn all, men ! it's him, 
d — n him, 'n I'll slaughter him 'r he shall me." 
Backward flew the boat, not a second too soon, for 
with that superhuman cunning expected of him, the 


The Orphan 

terrible monster had spun round and was rushing 
straight for them. The men pulled for dear life, the 
steersman swinging the boat round as if she were on a 
pivot, while the skipper pitched over the first of his 
barrels. Out flashed the sinewy flukes, and before 
that tremendous blow the buoyant barrico spun 
through the air like a football. The skipper's eyes 
flashed with delight at the success of his stratagem, 
and over went another decoy. This seemed to puzzle 
the whale, but it did not hinder him, and he seemed 
to keep instinctively heading towards the boat, thus 
exposing only his invulnerable head. The skipper, 
however, had no idea of rashly risking himself, so 
heaving over his remaining barrel he kept well clear of 
the furious animal's rushes, knowing well that the 
waiting game was the best. All through that bright 
day the great battle raged. Many were the hair- 
breadth escapes of the men, but the skipper never lost 
his cool, calculating attitude. Finally the now ex- 
hausted leviathan ^'sounded" in reality, remaining 
down for half-an-hour. When he reappeared, he was 
so sluggish in his movements that the exultant skipper 
shouted, '^ Naow, boys, in on him ! he's our whale." 
Forward darted the beautiful craft under the practised 
sweep of the six oars, and as soon as she was within 
range the skipper fired his first bomb. It reached the 
whale, but, buried in the flesh, its explosion was not 
disabling. Still it did not spur the huge creature into 
activity, for at last his strength had failed him. Another 
rush in and another bomb, this time taking effect just 
abaft the starboard fin. There was a momentary 
accession of energy as the frightful wound caused by 


A Sack of Shakings 

the bursting iron tube among the monster's viscera set 
all his masses of muscle a-quiver. But this spurt was 
short-lived. And as a third bomb was fired a torrent 
of blood foamed from the whale's distended spiracle, 
a few fierce convulsions distorted his enormous frame, 
and that puissant ocean monarch passed peacefully 
into the passiveness of death. 

When they got the great carcass alongside, they 
found embedded in the blubber no fewer than 
fourteen harpoons, besides sundry fragments of ex- 
ploded bombs, each bearing mute but eloquent testi- 
mony to the warlike career of the vanquished Titan 
who began his career as an orphan. 



Far away to the horizon on three sides of us 
stretched the sea, its wavelets all sparkling in the 
sun-glade, and dancing under the touch of the sedate 
trade-wind. Above hung a pale-blue dome quivering 
with heat and light from the sun, that, halfway up his 
road to the zenith, seemed to be in the act of break- 
ing his globular limit and flooding space wuth flame. 
Ah ! it was indeed pleasant to He on that little patch 
of pure sand, firm and smooth as a boarded floor, with 
the rocks fringed by greenery of many kinds over- 
shadowing us, and the ocean murmuring at our feet. 

The place was a little promontory on the eastern 
shore of Hapai, in the Friendly Islands, and my 
companion, who lay on the sand near me, was by 
birth a chief, a splendid figure of a man, with a 
grave, intellectual face, and deep, solemn voice that 
refused to allow the mangled English in which he 
spoke to seem laughable. I knew him to be the 
senior deacon of the local chapel, a devotionalist 
of the most rigid kind, yet by common consent a 
righteous man, well-beloved by all who knew him. 
He was my ''flem" or friend, who, of his ow^n 
initiative, kept me supplied with all such luxuries as 
the village afforded, and so great was my admiration 
for him as a man that it was w^th no ordinary 
delight I succeeded in persuading him to accompany 


A Sack of Shakings 

me on a holiday ramble. He had led me through 
forest paths beset by a thousand wonders of beauty 
in vegetation and insect life, showing me as we 
went how the untilled ground produced on every 
hand abundance of delicious food for man, up over 
hills from whence glimpses of land and sea scape 
incessantly flashed upon the sight till my eyes grew 
weary of enjoying, over skirting reefs just creaming 
with the indolent wash of the sea, every square yard 
of which held matter for a life's study, but all 
beautiful beyond superlatives. And at last, weary 
with wondering no less than with the journey, we 
had reached this sheltered nook and laid down to 
rest, lulled into dreamy peace by the murmurs of 
the Pacific rippling beneath us. 

For some time we lay silent in great content. 
Every thought, every feeling, as far as I was con- 
cerned, was just merged in complete satisfaction of 
all the senses, although at times I glanced at my 
grave companion, wondering dreamily if he too, 
though accustomed to these delights all his life long, 
could feel that deep enjoyment of them that I, a 
wanderer from the bleak and unsettled North, was 
saturated with. But while this and kindred ideas 
lazily ebbed and flowed through my satisfied brain, 
the bright expanse of sea immediately beneath us 
suddenly started into life. A school of porpoises, 
numbering several hundreds, broke the surface, new 
risen from unknown depths, and began their merry 
gambols as if the superabundant life animating them 
must find a vent. They formed into three divisions, 
marched in undulating yet evenly spaced lines, 


A Porpoise Myth 

amalgamated, separated, reformed. At one moment 
all clustered in one central mass, making the placid 
sea boil; the next, as if by a pivotal explosion, they 
were rushing at headlong speed in radiating lines 
towards a circumference. As if at preconcerted 
signal, they reached it and disappeared. Perfect 
quiet ensued for perhaps two minutes. Then, in 
solemn measure, solitary individuals, scattered over 
a vast area, rose into the air ten, fifteen, twenty feet, 
turned and fell, but, at our distance from them, in 
perfect silence. This pretty play continued for some 
time, the leaps growing gradually less vigorous 
until they ceased altogether, and we saw the whole 
company massing themselves in close order far out 
to sea. A few minutes, for breathing space I suppose, 
and then in one magnificent charge, every individual 
leaping twenty feet at each bound, they came 
thundering shoreward. It was an inspiring sight, 
that host of lithe black bodies in maddest rush along 
the sea-surface, lashing it into dazzling foam, and 
sending across to our ears a deep melodious roar 
like the voice of many waters. Within a hundred 
yards of the shore they disappeared abruptly, as if 
an invisible line had there been drawn, and presently 
we saw them leisurely departing eastward, as though, 
playtime over, they had now resumed the normal 
flow of everyday duties. 

While I lay quietly wondering over the amazing 
display I had just witnessed, I was almost startled 
to hear my companion speak, for he seldom did so 
unless spoken to first. (I translate.) '^The great 
game of the sea-pigs that we have just seen brings 


A Sack of Shakings 

back to my memory an old story which is still told 
among our people, but one which we are trying hard 
to forget with all the others, because they are of the 
evil days, and stir up in our children those feelings 
that we have fought so long to bury beyond resur- 
rection. This story, however, is harmless enough, 
although I should neither tell it to, or listen to it 
from, one of mine own people. Long ago when 
we worshipped the old cruel gods, and my ancestors 
were chief priests of that worship, holding all the 
people under their rule in utter terror and subjection, 
our chief, yes, our only, business besides religion 
was war. Our women were slaves who were only 
born for our service, and it is not easy now to 
understand what our feelings then were toward the 
sex to whom we are now so tender. Our only talk 
was of the service of the gods and of war, which 
indeed was generally undertaken for some religious 
reason, more often than not to provide human 
victims for sacrifice. In one of these constantly 
recurring wars the men of Tonga-tabu — of course 
each group of these islands was then independent 
of the others — made a grand raid upon Hapai. They 
were helped by some strangers, who had been 
washed ashore from some other islands to the 
northward, to build bigger and better war-canoes 
than had ever before been seen, for our people were 
never famous for canoe-building. They kept their 
plans so secret that when at daybreak one morning 
the news ran round Hapai that a whole fleet of 
war-canoes were nearing the shore, our people were 
like a school of flying-fish into the midst of which 


A Porpoise Myth 

some dolphin has suddenly burst. One of my 
ancestors, called 'The Bone-Breaker' from his great 
strength and courage, met the invaders with a mere 
handful of his followers and delayed their landing 
for hours until he and all his warriors were killed. 
By this time fresh bands were continually arriving, 
so that the warriors from Tonga must needs fight 
every inch of their way through the islands. And 
as they destroyed band after band their war-hunger 
became greater, their rage rose, and they determined 
to leave none of us living except such as they kept 
for sacrifice on their altars at home. Day after day 
the slaughter went on, ever more feeble grew the 
defence, until warriors who had never refused the 
battle hid them^selves like the peca in holes of the 
rocks. Behind us, about two miles inland, there is 
a high hill with a flat top and steep sides. To this 
as a shelter fled all the unmarried girls of our 
people, fearing to be carried aw^ay as slaves to Tonga, 
but never dreaming of being slain if their hiding- 
place was found. Here they remained unseen for 
oeven days, until, ravenous with hunger, they were 
forced to leave their hiding-place and come down. 
But they hoped that, although no tidings had reached 
them from outside, their enemies had departed. Four 
hundred of them reached the plain over which we 
passed just now, weak with fasting, with no man to 
lead them, trembling at every rustling branch in the 
forest around. All appeared as it does to-day, the 
islands seemed slumbering in serene peace, although 
they knew that every spot where their people had 
lived was now defiled by the recent dead. 


A Sack of Shakings 

^* While they paused, huddhng together irresolutely, 
there suddenly burst upon their ears a tempest of 
exultant yells, and from both sides of the hill they 
had lately left the whole force of Tongans rushed 
after them. They fled as flies the booby before the 
frigate-bird, and with as little hope of escape. Before 
them spread this same bright sea smiling up at them 
as if in welcome. You know how our people love 
the sea, love to cradle ourselves on its caressing 
waves from the day when, newly born, our mothers 
lay us in its refreshing waters, until even its life-giving 
touch can no longer reanimate our withered bodies. 
So who can wonder that the maidens fled to it for 
refuge. Over this shining sand they rushed, plunging 
in ranks from yonder reef-edge into the quiet blue 
beyond. Hard behind them came the hunters, sure 
of their prey. They reached the reef and stared with 
utter dread and amazement upon the pretty play of 
a great school of porpoises that, in just such graceful 
evolutions as we have now seen, manifested their 
full enjoyment of life. Terror seized upon those 
blood-lusting Tongans, their muscles shrank and their 
weapons fell. Had there been one hundred Hapaian 
warriors left alive they might have destroyed the 
whole Tongan host, for it was become as a band of 
lost and terrified children dreading at every step to 
meet the vengeance of the gods. But there were 
none to hinder them, so they fled in safety to their 
own shores, never to invade Hapai again. And when, 
after many years, the few survivors of that week of 
death had repeopled Hapai, the story of the four 
hundred maidens befriended by the sea-gods in their 


A Porpoise Myth 

time of need was the most frequently told among 
us. And to this day is the porpoise ^ taboo/ although 
we know now that this legend, as well as all the 
others which have been so carefully preserved among 
us, is only the imagination of our forefathers' hearts. 
Yet I often wish that we knew some of them were 



Many stories are current about the peculiar aptitude 
possessed by sailors of laming all sorts of wild 
creatures that chance to come under their care, most 
of them having a much firmer basis of fact than sea- 
yarns are usually given credit for. But of all the 
pets made by Jack none ever attains so intimate an 
acquaintance with him, so firm a hold upon his 
affections, as the cat, about whom so many libellous 
things are said ashore. All things considered, a ship's 
forecastle is about the last place in the world that one 
would expect to find favoured by a cat for its per- 
manent abiding place. Subject as it is at all times to 
sudden invasion by an encroaching wave, always at 
the extremes of stuffiness or draughtiness, never by 
any chance cheered by the glow of a fire, or boasting 
even an apology for a hearthrug, — warmth-loving, 
luxurious pussy cannot hope to find any of those 
comforts that her long acquaintance with civilisation 
has certainly given her an innate hankering after. 
No cat's-meat man purveying regular rations of 
savoury horse-flesh, so much beloved by even the 
daintiest aristocrats of the cat family, ever gladdens 
her ears with the dulcet cry of " Meeeet, cassmeet," 
nor, saddest lack of all, is there ever to be found a 
saucer of milk for her delicate cleanly lapping. And 
yet, strange as it may appear, despite the superior 


Cats on Board Ship 

attractions offered by the friendly steward at the after- 
end of the ship, irresponsive to the blandishments of 
the captain and officers, I have many times been ship- 
mate with cats who remained steadily faithful to the 
fo'c's'le throughout the length of an East Indian or 
Colonial voyage. They could hardly be said to have 
any preferences for individual members of the crew, 
being content with the universal attention paid them 
by all, although as a rule they found a snug berth in 
some man's bunk which they came to look upon as 
theirs by prescriptive right, their shelter in time of 
storm, and their refuge, when in harbour the scanty 
floor place of the fo'c's'le afforded no safe promenade 
for anything bearing a tail. Only once or twice in all 
my experience have I seen any cruelty offered to a 
cat on board ship, and then the miscreant who thus 
offended against the unwritten law had but a sorry 
time of it thereafter. 

Personally, I have been honoured by the 'enduring 
fellowship of many cats whose attachment to me for 
myself alone (for I had nothing to give them to eat 
but a little chewed biscuit) effectually settled for me 
the question of what some people are pleased to call 
the natural selfishness of cats. My first experience 
was on my second voyage when I was nearly thirteen 
years old. On my first voyage we had no cat, strange 
to say, in either of the three ships I belonged to 
before I got back to England. But when I joined 
the Brinkburn in London for the West Indies as boy, 
I happened to be the first on board to take up my 
quarters in the fo'c's'le. I crept into my lonely bunk 
that night feeling very small and forgotten, and 


A Sack of Shakings 

huddled myself into my ragged blanket trying to get 
warm and go to sleep. It was quite dark, and the 
sudden apparition of two glaring green eyes over the 
edge of my bunk sent a spasm of fear through me for 
a moment, until I felt soft feet walking over me and 
heard the pretty little crooning sound usually made 
by a complacent mother-cat over her kittens. I put 
up my hands and felt the warm fur, quite a thrill of 
pleasure trickling over me as pussy pleasantly re- 
sponded with a loud satisfied purr. We were quite 
glad of each other I know, for as I cuddled her 
closely to me, the vibrations of her purring comforted 
me so that in a short time I was sound asleep. 
Thenceforward puss and I were the firmest of friends. 
In fact she was the only friend I had on board that 
hateful ship. For the crew were a hard-hearted lot, 
whose treatment of me was consistently barbarous, 
and even the other boy, being much bigger and 
stronger than I was, used to treat me as badly as any 
of them. But when night came and the faithful cat 
nestled in by my side during my watch below, I 
would actually forget my misery for a short time in 
the pleasant consciousness that something was fond of 
me. It was to my^bunk she invariably fled for refuge 
from the ill-natured little terrier who lived aft, and 
never missed an opportunity of flying at her when he 
saw her on deck. Several times during the passage 
she found flying-fish that dropped on deck at night, 
and, by some instinct I do not pretend to explain, 
brought them to where I crouched by the cabin-door. 
Then she would munch the sweet morsel contentedly, 
looking up at me between mouthfuls as if to tell me 


Cats on Board Ship 

how much she was enjoying her unwonted meal, or 
actually leaving it for a minute or two to rub herself 
against me and arch her back under my fondling 
hand. Two days before we left Falmouth, Jamaica, 
on the homeward passage, she had kittens, five tiny 
slug-like things, that lived in my bunk in their 
mother's old nest. The voyage ended abruptly on 
the first day out of harbour by the vessel running 
upon an outlying spur of coral only a few miles from 
the port. After a day and night of great exertion and 
exposure the ship slid off the sharp pinnacles of the 
reef into deep water, giving us scant time to escape 
on board one of the small craft that clustered along- 
side salving the cargo. The few rags I owned were 
hardly worth saving, but indeed I did not think of 
them. All my care was for an old slouch hat in 
which lay the five kittens snug and warm, while the 
anxious mother clung to me so closely that I had no 
difficulty in taking her along too. When we got 
ashore, although it cost me a bitter pang, I handed 
the rescued family over to the hotel-keeper's daughter, 
a comely mulatto girl, who promised me that my old 
shipmate should from that time live in luxury. 

From that time forward I was never fortunate 
enough to have a cat for my very own for a long 
time. Nearly every ship I was in had a cat, or even 
two, but they were common property, and their 
attentions were severely impartial. Then it came 
to pass that I joined a very large and splendid ship 
in Adelaide as second mate. Going on board for 
the first time, a tiny black kitten followed me per- 
sistently along the wharf. It had evidently strayed 


A Sack of Shakings 

a long way and would not be put off, although I 
made several attempts to escape from it, feeling that 
perhaps I might be taking it away from a better 
home than I could possibly give it. It succeeded 
in following me on board, and when I took posses- 
sion of the handsome cabin provided for me in the 
after end of the after deckhouse facing the saloon, 
it installed itself therein, purring complete approval 
of its surroundings. Now, in spite of the splendour 
of the ship and the natural pride I felt in being an 
officer on board of her, it must be confessed that I 
was exceedingly lonely. The chief officer was an 
elderly man of about fifty-five who had long com- 
manded ships, and he considered it beneath his 
dignity to associate with such a mere lad as he 
considered me. Besides, he lived in the grand cabin. 
I could not forgather with the saloon passengers, 
who rarely came on the main-deck at all where I 
lived, and I was forbidden to go forward and visit 
those in the second saloon. Therefore during my 
watch below I was doomed to solitary state, cut off 
from the companionship of my kind with the sole 
exception of the urbane and gentlemanly chief 
steward, who did occasionally (about once a week) 
spend a fraction of his scanty leisure in conversation 
with me. Thus it came about that the company of 
^' Pasht," as I called my little cat, was a perfect 
godsend. He slept on my pillow when I was in my 
bunk, when I sat at my table writing or reading he 
sat close to my hand. And if I wrote long, paying no 
attention to him, he would reach out a velvety paw 
and touch the handle of my pen, ever so gently, 


Cats on Board Ship 

looking up at my face immediately to see if my 
attention had been diverted. Often I took no notice 
but kept on with my work, quietly putting back the 
intruding paw when it became too troublesome. At 
last, as if unable to endure my neglect any longer, 
he would get up and walk on to the paper, sitting 
down in the centre of the sheet with a calm assurance 
that now I must notice him that was very funny. 
Then we would sit looking into the depths of each 
other's eyes as if trying mutual mesmerism. It 
generally ended by his climbing up on to my 
shoulder and settling into the hollow of my neck, 
purring softly in my ear, while I wrote or read on 
until I was quite stiff with the constrained position 
I kept for fear of disturbing him. Whenever I went 
on deck at night to keep my watch he invariably 
came with me, keeping me company throughout my 
four hours' vigil on the poop. Always accustomed 
to going barefoot, from which I was precluded during 
the day owing to my position, I invariably enjoyed 
the absence of any covering for my feet in the night 
watches. My little companion evidently thought my 
bare feet were specially put on for his amusement, 
for after a few sedate turns fore and aft by my side, 
he would hide behind the skylights and leap out 
upon them as I passed, darting off instantly in high 
glee at the feat he had performed. Occasionally I 
would turn the tables on him by going a few feet 
up the rigging, when he would sit and cry, baby- 
like, until I returned and comforted him. I believe 
he knew every stroke of the bell as w^ell as I did. 
One of the apprentices always struck the small bell 

33 c 

A Sack of Shakings 

at the break of the poop every half-hour, being 
answered by the look-out man on the big bell for- 
ward. '' Pasht " never took the slightest notice of 
any of the strokes until the four pairs announced 
the close of the watch. Then I always missed him 
suddenly. But when, after mustering the mate's 
watch and handing over my charge to my superior, I 
went to my berth, a little black head invariably peeped 
over the edge of my bunk, as if saying, '' Come along ; 
I'm so sleepy ! " So our pleasant companionship 
went on until one day, when about the Line in the 
Atlantic, I found my pretty pet lying on the grating 
in my berth. He had been seized with a fit, and 
under its influence had rushed into the fo'c's'le, where 
some unspeakable wretch had shamefully maltreated 
him under the plea that he was mad ! I could not 
bear to see him suffer — I cannot say what had been 
done to him — so I got an old marline-spike, looped the 
lanyard about his neck, and dropped him overboard. 
And an old lady among the passengers berated me the 
next day for my ^' heartless brutality " ! 

As a bereaved parent often dreads the thought of 
having another little one to lose, so, although many 
opportunities presented themselves, I refused to own 
another cat, until I became an unconsenting foster- 
parent again to a whole family. I joined a brig in the 
St. Katharine Docks as mate, finding when I took up 
my berth that there was both a cat and a dog on 
board, inmates of the cabin. They occupied different 
quarters during the night, but it was a never-waning 
pleasure to me to see them meet in the morning. 
The dog, a large brown retriever, would stand per- 


Cats on Board Ship 

fectly still, except for his heavy tail, which swayed 
sedately from side to side, while '' Jane " would walk 
round and round him, arching her back and rubbing 
her sides against him, purring all the time a gentle 
note of welcome. Presently their noses would meet, 
as if in a kiss, and he would bestow a slavering lick 
or two upon her white fur. This always ended the 
greeting, sending ''Jane" off primly to commence her 
morning toilet. But alas ! a blighting shadow fell 
upon this loving intercourse. One of the dock cats, 
a creature of truculent appearance, her fur more like 
the nap of a door-mat than anything else, blind of 
one eye, minus half her tail, with a hare-lip (acquired, 
not hereditary), and her ears vandyked in curious 
patterns, stalked on board one afternoon, and took 
up her abode in the cabin without any preliminaries 
whatever. Both the original tenants were much dis- 
turbed at this graceless intrusion, but neither of them 
felt disposed to tackle the formidable task of turning 
her out. So ''Jane" departed to the galley, and 
"Jack," with many a loud and long sniff at the door 
of the berth wherein the visitor lay, oscillated discon- 
solately between the galley and the cabin, his duty 
and his inclination. The new-comer gave no trouble, 
always going ashore for everything she required, and 
only once, the morning her family arrived, deigning 
to accept a saucer of milk from me. As soon as she 
dared she carried the new-comers ashore one by 
one, being much vexed when I followed and brought 
them back again. However, her patience was greater 
than mine, for she succeeded in getting them all aw^ay 
except one which I hid away and she apparently 


A Sack of Shakings 

forgot. Then we saw her no more ; she returned to 
her duty of rat-catching in the warehouses, and never 
came near us again. Meanwhile '' Jane " would 
scarcely leave my side during the day, asking as 
pkiinly as a cat could, why, oh why, didn't I turn 
that shameless hussy out ? Couldn't I see how things 
were ? or was I like the rest of the men ? Her im- 
portunity was so great that I was heartily glad when 
the old 'Mocker" was gone, and I lost no time in 
reinstalling '^ Jane " in her rightful realm. It was 
none too soon. For the next morning when I turned 
out, a sight as strange as any I have ever seen greeted 
me. There, in the corner of my room, lay ''Jack" on 
his side, looking w4th undisguised amazement and an 
occasional low whine of sympathy at his friend, who, 
nestling close up to his curls in the space between 
his fore and hind legs, was busily attending to the 
wants of two new arrivals. The dog's bewilderment 
and interest were so great, that the scene would have 
been utterly ludicrous had it not been so genuinely 
pathetic and pretty. How he 'managed to restrain 
himself I do not know, but there he lay perfectly quiet 
until pussy herself released him from his awkward 
position by getting up and taking possession of a cosy 
box I prepared for her. Even then his attentions 
were constant, for many times a day he would walk 
gravely in and sniff at the kittens, bestow a lick on 
the mother, and depart with an almost dejected air, 
as of a dog that had met with a problem utterly be- 
yond his wisdom to solve. A visitor claiming one of 
the new kittens, I filled its place with the one I had 
kept belonging to the old " docker," and "Jane" ac- 


Cats on Board Ship 

cepted the stranger without demur. While we were 
in dock I gave them plenty of such luxuries as milk 
and cat's-meat, so that the little family prospered 
apace. As the kittens grew and waxed frolicsome, 
their attachment to me was great, — quite embar- 
rassing at times, for while standing on deck giving 
orders, they would swarm up my legs and cling like 
bats to my coat, so that I moved with difficulty for 
fear of shaking them off. " Jane " was a perfect 
" ratter," and I was curious to see whether her 
prowess was hereditary in her offspring. A trap was 
set and a rat speedily caught, for we were infested 
with them. Then ''Jane" and her own kitten were 
called, the latter being at the time barely two months 
old. As soon as the kitten smelt the rat she growled, 
set up her fur, and walked round the trap (a large 
wire cage) seeking a way in. ''Jane" sat down a 
little apart, an apparently uninterested spectator. We 
opened the door of the trap, the kitten darted in, and 
there in that confined space slew^ the rat, which was 
almost her equal in size, with the greatest ease. She 
then dragged it out, growling like a miniature tiger. 
Her mother came to have a look, but the kitten, 
never loosing her bite, shot out one bristling paw 
and smote poor "Jane" on the nose so felly that she 
retired shaking her head and sneezing entire disap- 
proval. The other kitten, a "tom," could never be 
induced to interfere with a rat at all. My space is 
gone, much to my disappointment, for the subject is 
a fascinating one to me. But I hope enough has 
been said to show what a large amount of interest 
clusters around cats on board ship. 



An enthusiastic crowd of workmen and seafarers 
gathered one day long ago at Blackwall to witness 
the launching of the Lion, Every man among them 
felt a personal interest in the majestic fabric that, 
under the proud labours of those skilful shipwrights, 
had gradually grown up out of the trim piles of oak, 
greenheart, and teak, and taken on the splendid shape 
of an East Indiaman, in the days when those grand 
vessels were queens of the wide sea. Green's re- 
nowned draughtsmen had lavished all their skill upon 
her design, every device known to men whose calling 
was their pride, and to whom the Blackwall Yard 
was the centre of the shipbuilding world, had been 
employed to make the Lion the finest of all the 
great fleet that had been brought into being there. 
Decked with flags from stem to stern, the sun glinting 
brightly on the rampant crimson lion that towered 
proudly on high from her stem, she glided gracefully 
from the ways amid the thunder of cannon and the 
deafening shouts of exultant thousands. And when, 
two months later, she sailed for Madras with eighty 
prime seamen forrard and a hundred passengers in 
her spacious cuddy, who so proud as her stately 
commander ? His eye flashed as he watched the 
nimble evolutions of his bonny bluejackets leaping 
from spar to spar, and he felt that, given fitting 


The Old East Indiaman 

opportunity, he would have no overwhelming task 
to tackle a French line-of-battle ship, even though 
he was but a peaceful merchantman. For ranged on 
either side of her roomy decks were ten i8-poun- 
ders, under the charge of a smart gunner, whose 
pride in his new post was a pleasant thing to see. 
And besides these bulldogs there were many rifles 
and boarding-pikes neatly stowed in a small armoury 
in the waist. But above and beyond all these 
weapons were the men who would use them, — sturdy, 
square-set British sea-dogs, such as you may now see 
any day swarming upon the deck of a British man-o'- 
war, but may look for almost in vain on board the 
swarming thousands of vessels that compose our 
merchant fleet. 

The Lion soon justified all the high hopes of her 
builders and owners. In spite of her (then) great 
size and the taut spread of her spars, she was far 
handier than any '' Billy-boy " that ever turned up 
the Thames estuary against a head wdnd, and by 
at least a knot and a half the fastest ship in the 
East India trade. Her fame grew and w^axed ex- 
ceedingly great. There was as much intriguing to 
secure a berth in the Lion for the outward or 
homeward passage as there was in those days for 
positions in the golden land she traded to. Almost 
all the hierarchy of India spoke of her affectionately 
as one speaks of the old home, and the newly- 
arrived in her knew no lack of topics for conversa- 
tion if they only mentioned her name in any 
company. For had she not borne safely and 
pleasantly over the long, long sea-road from home 


A Sack of Shakings 

hundreds and hundreds of those pale-faced rulers 
of dusky millions, bringing them in their callow 
boyhood to leap at a bound to posts of trust and 
responsibility such as the proud old Romans never 
dreamed of ? She was so tenderly cared for, her 
every want so immediately supplied, that this solici- 
tude, added to the staunchness and honesty of her 
build, seemed to render her insusceptible of decay. 
Men whose work in India was done spoke of her 
in their peaceful retirement on leafy English country- 
sides, and recalled with cronies '^our first passage 
out in the grand old Lion!' A new type of ship, 
a new method of propulsion, w^as springing up all 
around her. But whenever any of the most modern 
fliers forgathered with her upon the ocean high- 
way, their crews felt their spirits rise in passionate 
admiration for the stately and beautiful old craft 
whose graceful curves and perfect ease seemed to 
be of the sea sui generisy moulded and caressed by 
the noble element into something of its own mobility 
and tenacious power. 

It appeared almost a loss of dignity when the 
Company took her off the India route and held her 
on the Australian berth. But very soon she had 
taken the place that always appeared to be hers of 
right, and she was the ship of all others wherein to 
sail for the new world beneath us. And in due 
course the sturdy Empire-builders scattered all over 
the vast new country were speaking of her as the 
Anglo-Indians had done a generation ago, and the 
*' new chum " who had ^^ come out in the Lion " found 
himself welcome in far-away bush homes, from 


The Old East Indiaman 

Adelaide to Brisbane, as one of the same family, a 
protege of the benevolent old ship. She held her 
own well, too, in point of speed with the new steel 
and iron clippers, in spite of w^hat foolish youngsters 
sneeringly said about her extended quarter-galleries, 
her far-reaching head, and immense many-windowed 
stern. But gradually the fierce stress of modern 
competition told upon her, and it needed no great 
stretch of the imagination to suppose that the magni- 
ficent old craft felt her dignity outraged as voyage 
after voyage saw her crew^ lists dwindle until instead 
of the eighty able seajue?i of her young days she 
carried but twenty-two. The goodly company of 
officers, midshipmen, and artificers were cut down 
also to a third of their old arrav, and as a necessarv 
consequence much of her ancient smartness of ap- 
pearance went with them. Then she should have 
closed her splendid career in some great battle with 
the elements, and found a fitting glory of defeat 
without disgrace before the all-conquering, enduring 
sea. That solace was not to be hers, but as a final 
effort she made the round voyage from Melbourne 
to London and back, including the handling of two 
cargoes, in five months and twenty days, beating 
anything of the kind ever recorded of a sailing- 

Then, oh woeful fall ! she was sold to the 
Norwegians, those thrifty mariners who are ever on 
the look-out for bargains in the way of ships who 
have seen their best days, and manage to succeed, 
in ways undreamed of by more lavish nations, in 
making fortunes out of such poor old battered 


A Sack of Shakings 

phantoms of bygone prosperity. Tenacious as the 
seaman's memory is for the appearance of any ship 
in which he has once sailed, it would have been no 
easy task for any of her former shipmates to re- 
cognise the splendid old Lion under her Scandinavian 
name of the Ganger Rolf, metamorphosed as she 
was too by the shortening of her tapering spars, the 
stripping of the yards from the mizen-mast, and the 
rigging up of what British sailors call the ^' Norwegian 
house-flag," a windmill pump between the main and 
mizen masts. Thus transformed she began her de- 
graded existence under new masters, crawling to 
and fro across the Atlantic to Quebec in summer, 
Pensacola or Doboy in winter, uneasily and spiritless 
as some gallant hunter dragging a timber waggon in 
his old age. Unpainted, weather-bleached, and with 
sails so patched and clouted that they looked like 
slum washing hung out to dry, she became, like the 
rest of the '^wood-scows," a thing .for the elements 
to scoff at, and, seen creeping eastward with a deck- 
load of deals piled six feet high fore and aft above 
her top - gallant rail, was as pathetic as a pauper 
funeral. Eight seamen now were all that the thrift 
of her owners allowed to navigate her, who with 
the captain, two mates, carpenter, and cook, made 
up the whole of her crew, exactly the number of 
the officers she used to carry in her palmy days. 

One day when she was discharging in London 
there came alongside an old seaman, weather-worn 
and hungry-looking. Something in the build of the 
old ship caught his eye, and with quivering lips and 
twitching hands he climbed on board. Round about 


The Old East Indiaman 

the deck he quested until, half hidden by a huge pile 
of lumber, he found the bell and read on it, ^' Lion, 
London, 1842." Then he sat down and covered his 
face with his hands. Presently he arose and sought 
the grimy mate purposefully. At an incredibly low 
wage he obtained the berth of cook, — it was either 
that or star^^e, although now he had found his old 
ship, he felt that he would go for nothing rather than 
miss another voyage in her. Soon after they sailed 
for the ^'fall voyage" to Quebec, making a successful 
run over, much to the delight of the ancient cook, 
who was never weary of telling any one who would 
listen of the feats of sailing performed by the Lz'on 
when he was quartermaster of her ''way back in 
the fifties." Urged by greed, for he was part-owner, 
and under no fear of the law, the skipper piled upon 
her such a deck-load of deals that she no longer re- 
sembled a ship, she was only comparable to a vast 
timber stack with three masts. She was hardly clear 
of Newfoundland on| her homeward passage, when 
one of the most terrible gales of all that terrible winter 
set in. Snow and sleet and frost-fog, a blinding white 
whirl of withering cold, assailed her, paralysing the 
hapless handful of men who vainly strove on their 
lofty platform to do their duty, exposed fully to all 
the wrath of that icy tempest. One after one the 
worn-out sails, like autumn leaves, w^ere stripped 
from yard and stay ; day after day saw the perishing 
mariners die. The sea froze upon her where it fell, 
so that now she resembled an iceberg ; and though 
the remnant of the crew tried many times to get at 
the fastenings of the chains that secured the deck- 


A Sack of Shakings 

load so as to send it adrift, they could not. At last 
only one man was left alive, and he, strangely enough, 
was the old cook. And while still the gale was at 
its height, he suddenly seemed to renew all his lost 
strength. Buckling tight his belt with firm fingers, 
a new light gleaming in his eyes, he strode aft and 
seized the long -disused wheel. Standing erect and 
alert he conned her gravely, getting her well before 
the wind. Onward she fled, as if knowing the touch 
of an old friend. Gradually the lean fingers stiffened, 
the fire died out of the eyes, until, just as the last 
feeble drops in that brave old heart froze solid, the 
Lion dashed into a mountainous berg and all her 
shattered timbers fell apart. Lovely and pleasant 
had she been in her life, and in her death she was 
no danger to her wandering sisters. 



Who is there among us that has ever seen a lake, 
a pond, or a river-bed laid dry that has not felt an 
almost childish interest and curiosity in the aspect 
of a portion of earth's surface hitherto concealed 
from our gaze ? The feeling is probably universal, 
arising from the natural desire to penetrate the un- 
known, and also from a primitive anxiety to know 
what sort of an abode the inhabitants of the water 
possess, since we almost always consider the water- 
folk to live as do the birds, really on land with the 
water for an atmosphere. But if this curiosity be 
so general with regard to the petty depths mentioned 
above, how greatly is it increased in respect of the 
recesses of the sea. For there is truly the great 
unknown, the undiscoverable country of which, in 
spite of the constant efforts of deep-sea expeditions, 
we know next to nothing. Here imagination may 
(and does) run riot, attempting the impossible task 
of reproducing to our minds the state of things in 
the lightless, silent depths where life, according to 
our ideas of it, is impossible, — the true valley of the 
shadow of death. 

Suppose that it were possible for some convulsion 
of Nature to lay bare, let us say, the entire bed of 
the North Atlantic Ocean. With one bound the 
fancy leaps at the prospect of a rediscovery of the 


A Sack of Shakings 

lost continent, the fabled Atlantis whose wonders have 
had so powerful an effect upon the imaginations of 
mankind. Should we be able to roam through those 
stupendous halls, climb those towering temple heights 
reared by the giants of an elder world, or gaze with 
stupefied wonder upon the majestic ruins of cities 
to which Babylon or Palmyra with all their moun- 
tainous edifices were but as a suburban townlet ! 
Who knows ? Yet maybe the natural wonders appa- 
rent in the foundations of such soaring masses as 
the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, or the Canaries ; 
or, greater still, the altitude of such remote and lonely 
pinnacles as those of the St. Paul's Rocks, would 
strike us as more marvellous yet. To thread the cool 
intricacies of the '^ still vext Bermoothes" at their 
basements and seek out the caves where the sea- 
monsters dwell who never saw the light of day, to 
wander at will among the windings of that strange 
maze of reefs that cramp up the outpouring of the 
beneficent Gulf Stream and make it issue from its 
source with that turbulent energy that carries it, 
laden with blessings, to our shores ; what a pilgrim- 
age that would be ! Imagine the vision of that 
great chain of islands which we call the West Indies 
soaring up from the vast plain 6000 feet below, with 
all the diversity of form and colour belonging to the 
lovely homes of the coral insects, who build cease- 
lessly for themselves, yet all unconsciously rear stable 
abodes for mankind. 

It would be an awful country to view, this suddenly 
exposed floor of the sea. A barren land of weird 
outline, of almost unimaginable complexity of con- 


The Floor of the Sea 

tour, but without any beauty such as is bestowed 
upon the dry earth by the kindly sun. For its beauty 
depends upon the sea, whose prolific waters are 
peopled with life so abundantly that even the teeming 
earth is barren as compared with the ocean. But at 
its greatest depths all the researches that man has 
been able to prosecute go to prove that there is little 
life. The most that goes on there is a steady accumu- 
lation of the dead husks of once living organisms 
settling slowly down to form who knows what new 
granites, marbles, porphyries, against the time when 
another race on a reorganised earth shall need them. 
Here there is nothing fanciful, for if we know any- 
thing at all of prehistoric times, it is that what is 
now high land, not to say merely dry land, was 
once lying cold and dormant at the bottom of the 
sea being prepared throughout who can say what 
unrealisable periods of time for the use and enjoy- 
ment of its present lords. Not until we leave the 
rayless gloom, the incalculable pressures and uni- 
versal cold of those tremendous depths, do we find 
the sea-floor beginning to abound with life. It may 
even be doubted whether anything of man's handi- 
work, such as there is about a ship foundering in 
mid-ocean, would ever reach in a recognisable form 
the bottom of the sea at a depth of more than 2000 
fathoms. There is an idea, popularly current among 
seafarers, that sunken ships in the deep sea only go 
down a certain distance, no matter what their build 
or how ponderous their cargo. Having reached a 
certain stratum, they then drift about, slowly disin- 
tegrating, derelicts of the depths, swarming with 


A Sack of Shakings 

strange denizens, the shadowy fleets of the lost and 
loved and mourned. In time, of course, as the great 
solvent gets in its work they disappear, becoming part 
of their surroundings, but not for hundreds of years, 
during which they pass and repass at the will of the 
under-currents that everywhere keep the whole body 
of water in the ocean from becoming stagnant and 
death-dealing to adjacent shores. A weird fancy 
truly, but surely not more strange than the silent 
depths about which it is formulated. 

In his marvellously penetrative way, Kipling has 
touched this theme while singing the ^'Song of the 
English " :— 

" The wrecks dissolve above us ; their dust drops down from afar — 
Down to the dark, the utter dark, where the bhnd white sea- 
snakes are. 
1 here is no sound, no echo of sound, in the deserts of the deep, 
On the great grey level plains of ooze where the shell-burred 
cables creep. 

Here in the womb of the world — here on the tie-ribs of earth. 
Words, and the words of men, flicker and flutter and beat — 
Warning, sorrow and gain, salutation and mirth — 
For a Power troubles the Still that has neither voice nor feet." 

Surely the imagination must be dead indeed that 
does not throb responsive to the thought of that 
latter-day workmanship of wire and rubber descend- 
ing at the will of man into the vast void, and running 
its direct course over mountain ranges, across sudden 
abysses of lower depth, through the turbulence of up- 
bursting submarine torrents where long-pent-up rivers 
compel the superincumbent ocean to admit their salt- 
less waters ; until from continent to continent the 


The Floor of the Sea 

connection is made, and man holds converse with 
man at his ease as though distance were not. Recent 
investigations go to prove that chief among the causes 
that make for destruction of those communicating 
cables are the upheavals of lost rivers. In spite of 
the protection that scientific invention has provided 
for the central core of conducting wire, these irresist- 
ible outbursts of undersea torrents rend and destroy 
it, causing endless labour of replacement by the never- 
resting cable-ships. But this is only one of the many 
deeply interesting features of oceanography, a science 
of comparatively recent growth, but full of gigantic 
possibilities for the future knowledge of this planet. 
The researches of the Challenger expedition, embodied 
in fifty portly volumes, afford a vast mass of material 
for discussion, and yet it is evident that what they 
reveal is but the merest tentative dipping into the 
great mysterious land that lies hidden far below the 
level surface of the inscrutable sea. 

That veteran man of science, Sir John ^Murray, has 
in a recent paper (Royal Geographical Society's Journal, 
October 1899) published his presidential address to 
the geographical section of the British Association at 
Dover, and even to the ordinary non-scientific reader 
his wonderful resume of what has been done in the 
way of exploring the ocean's depths must be as 
entrancing as a fairy tale. The mere mention of such 
a chasm as that existing in the South Pacific between 
the Kermadecs and the Friendly Islands, where a 
depth of 5155 fathoms, or 530 feet more than five 
geographical miles, has been found, strikes the lay 
mind with awe. Mount Everest, that stupendous 

49 ^ 


A Sack of Shakings 

Himalayan peak whose summit soars far above the 
utmost efforts of even the most devoted mountaineers, 
a virgin fastness mocking man's soaring ambition, if 
sunk in the ocean at the spot just mentioned would 
disappear until its highest point was 2000 feet below 
the surface. Yet out of that abyss rises the volcanic 
mass of Sunday Island in the Kermadecs, whose 
crater is probably 2000 feet above the sea-level. But 
in no less than forty-three areas visited by the 
Challenger^ depths of over 3000 fathoms have been 
found, and their total area is estimated at 7,152,000 
square miles, or about 7 per cent, of the total water- 
surface of the globe. Within these deeps are found 
many lower deeps, strangely enough generally in 
comparatively close proximity to land, such as the 
Tuscarora Deep, near Japan, one in the Banda Sea, 
that is to say, in the heart of the East India Archi- 
pelago, &c. Down, down into these mysterious 
waters the ingenious sounding-machine runs, taking 
out its four miles and upwards of pianoforte wire 
until the sudden stoppage of the swift descent marks 
the dial on deck with the exact number of fathoms 
reached. And yet so vast is the ocean bed that none 
can say with any certainty that far greater depths may 
not yet be found than any that have hitherto been 
recorded, amazing as they are. 

The character of the ocean floor at all these vast 
depths as revealed by the sounding-tube bringing 
specimens to the surface is identical — red clay — which 
strikes the fancy queerly as being according to most 
ancient legends the substance out of which our first 
ancestor was builded, and from w^hence he derived 


The Floor of the Sea 

his name. Mingled with this primordial ooze is found 
the debris of once living forms, many of them of 
extinct species, or species at any rate that have never 
come under modern man's observation except as 
fossils. The whole story, however, demands far more 
space than can here be allowed, but one more instance 
must be given of the wonders of the sea-bed in con- 
clusion. Let a violent storm displace any considerable 
body of warm surface water, and lo ! to take its place 
up rises an equal volume of cold under layers that 
have been resting far below the influence of the sun. 
Like a pestilential miasma these chill waves seize upon 
the myriads of the sea-folk and they die. The tale of 
death is incalculable, but one example is mentioned 
by Sir John Murray of a case of this kind off the 
eastern coast of North America in the spring of 1882, 
when a layer of dead fish and other marine animals 
six feet in thickness was believed to cover the ocean 
floor for many miles. 



Quite recently it was suggested by the writer of an 
article in the Spectator that Shakespeare was now but 
little read, — that while his works were quoted from as 
much as ever, the quotations were obtained at second 
hand, and that it would be hard to find to-day any 
reader who had waded through all that wonderful 
collection of plays and poems. This is surely not a 
carefully made statement. If there were any amount 
of truth in it, we might well regard such a state of 
things as only one degree less deplorable than that 
people should have ceased to read the Bible. For 
next to the Bible there can be no such collection of 
writings available wherein may be found food for 
every mind. Even the sailor, critical as he always is 
of allusions to the technicalities of his calling that 
appear in literature, is arrested by the truth of Shake- 
speare's references to the sea and seafaring, while he 
cannot but wonder at their copiousness in the work 
of a thorough landsman. Of course, in this respect 
it is necessary to remember that Elizabethan England 
spoke a language which was far more frequently 
studded with sea-terms than that which we speak 
ashore to-day. With all our vast commerce and our 
utter dependence upon the sea for our very life ; its 
romance, its expressions take little hold of the im- 
mense majority of the people. Therein we differ 


Shakespeare and the Sea 

widely from Americans. In every walk of life, from 
Maine to Mexico, from Philadelphia to San Francisco, 
the American people salt their speech with terms 
borrowed from the sailor, as they do also with other 
terms used by Shakespeare, and often considered by 
Shakespeare's countrymen of the present day, quite 
wrongly, to be slang. 

In what is perhaps the most splendidly picturesque 
effort of Shakespeare's genius, "The Tempest," he 
hurls us at the outset into the hurly-burly of a storm at 
sea with all the terror-striking details attendant upon 
the embaying of a ship in such weather. She is a 
passenger ship, too, and the passengers behave as 
landsmen might be expected to do in such a situa- 
tion. The Master (not Captain be it noted, for there 
are no Captains in the merchant-service) calls the boat- 
swain. Here arises a difficulty for a modern sailor. 
Where was the mate ? We cannot say that the office 
was not known, although Shakespeare nowhere alludes 
to such an officer ; but this much is certain, that 
for one person who would understand who was meant 
by the mate ten would appreciate the mention of the 
boatswain's name, and that alone would justify its 
use in poetry. In this short colloquy between the 
Master and boatswain we have the very spirit of sea 
service. An immediate reply to the Master's hail, and 
an inquiry in a phrase now only used by the vulgar, 
bring the assurance '^Good"; but it is at once 
followed by " Speak to the mariners, fall to't yarely, 
or we run ourselves aground ; bestir, bestir." Hav- 
ing given his orders the Master goes — he has other 
matters to attend to — and the boatswain heartens up 


A Sack of Shakings 

his crew in true nautical fashion, his language being 
almost identical with that used to-day. His "aside" 
is true sailor, — '' Blow till thou burst thy wind, if [we 
have] room enough." This essentially nautical feel- 
ing, that given a good ship and plenty of sea-room 
there is nothing to fear, is alluded to again and again 
in Shakespeare. He has the very spirit of it. Then 
come the meddlesome passengers, hampering the hard- 
pressed officer with their questioning and advice ! 
— until, exasperated beyond courtesy, he bursts out : 
" You mar our labour. Keep your cabins. You do 
assist the storm." Bidden to remember whom he has 
on board, he gives them more of his mind, winding 
up by again addressing his crew with *^ cheerly good 
hearts," and as a parting shot to his hinderers, " Out 
of our way, I say." 

But the weather grows worse ; they must needs 
strike the topmast and heave -to under the main- 
course (mainsail), a manoeuvre which, usual enough 
with Elizabethan ships, would never be attempted 
now. Under the same circumstances the lower main- 
topsail would be used, the mainsail having been furled 
long before because of its unwieldy size. Still the 
passengers annoy, now with abuse, which is 
answered by an appeal to their reason and an in- 
vitation to them to take hold and work. For the 
need presses. She is on a lee shore, and in spite of 
the fury of the gale sail must be made. " Set her 
two courses [mainsail and foresail], off to sea again, 
lay her off." And now the sailors despair and speak 
of prayer, their cries met scornfully by the valiant 
boatswain with " What, must our mouths be cold ? " 


Shakespeare and the Sea 

Then follows that wonderful sea-picture beginning 
Scene 2, which remains unapproachable for vigour 
and truth. A little further on comes the old sea- 
superstition of the rats quitting a foredoomed ship, 
and in Ariel's report a spirited account of what must 
have been suggested to Shakespeare by stories of the 
appearance of '' corposants " or St. Elmo's fire, usually 
accompanying a storm of this kind. And in answer 
to Prospero's question, ''Who was so firm?" &c., 
Ariel bears incidental tribute to the mariners, — ''AH, 
but mariners, plunged in the foaming brine and quit 
the vessel," those same mariners who are afterwards 
found, their vessel safely anchored, asleep under 
hatches, their dangerous toil at an end. 

In the "Twelfth Night" there are many salt-water 
allusions no less happy, beginning with the bright 
picture of Antonio presented by the Captain (of a 
war-ship ?) breasting the sea upon a floating mast. 
Again in Act I., Scene 6, Viola answers Malvolio's 
uncalled-for rudeness, " Will you hoist sail, sir ? " 
with the ready idiom, " No, good swabber^ I am to 
hull [to heave-to] here a little longer." In Act V., 
Scene i, the Duke speaks of Antonio as Captain of 
a " bawbling vessel — for shallow draught, and bulk, 
unprizable " ; in modern terms, a small privateer 
that played such havoc with the enemy's fleet that 
"very envy and the tongue of loss cried fame and 
honour on him." Surely Shakespeare must have 
had Drake in his mind when he wrote this. 

Who does not remember Shylock's contemptuous 
summing-up of Antonio's means and their probable 
loss ? — " Ships are but boards, sailors but men, there 


A Sack of Shakings 

be land nits and water rats, water thieves and land 
thieves — I mean, pirates ; and then there is the peril 
of waters, winds, and rocks " (Act I., Scene 3). In 
this same play, too, we have those terrible quicksands, 
the Goodwins, sketched for us in half-a-dozen lines : 
^' Where the carcases of many a tall ship lie buried " 
(Act III., Scene i) ; and in the last scene of the last 
act Antonio says his *' ships are safely come to road/' 
an expression briny as the sea itself. 

In the '^ Comedy of Errors," Act I., Scene i, we have 
a phrase that should have been coined by an ancient 
Greek sailor-poet : '^ The always-wind-obeying deep " ; 
and a little lower down the page a touch of sea-lore 
that would of itself suffice to stamp the writer as a 
man of intimate knowledge of nautical ways : ^' A 
small spare mast, such as seafaring men provide for 
storms." Who told Shakespeare of the custom of 
sailors to carry spare spars for jury-masts ? 

In '' Macbeth," the first witch sings of the winds and 
the compass card, and promises that her enemy's 
husband shall suffer all the torments of the tempest- 
tossed sailor without actual shipwreck. She also 
shows a pilot's thumb ^' wrack'd, as homeward he 
did come." Who in these days of universal reading 
needs reminding of the allusion to the ship-boy's 
sleep in Act III., Scene i, of ^' Henry IV., " a contrast 
of the most powerful and convincing kind, powerful 
alike in its poetry and its truth to the facts of 
Nature ? Especially noticeable is the line where 
Shakespeare speaks of the spindrift: ^^And in the 
visitation of the winds who take the ruffian billows 
by the top, curhng their monstrous heads, and 


Shakespeare and the Sea 

hanging them with deaf ning clamours in the slippery 

'' King Henry VI.," Act V., Scene i, has this line full 
of knowledge of sea usage: "Than bear so low a 
sail, to strike to thee." Here is a plain allusion to 
the ancient custom whereby all ships of any other 
nation, as well as all merchant ships, were compelled 
to lower their sails in courtesy to British ships of 
war. The picture given in " Richard III.," Act I., Scene 
4, of the sea-bed does not call for so much wonder, 
for the condition of that secret place of the sea 
must have had peculiar fascination for such a mind 
as Shakespeare's. Set in those few lines he has 
given us a vision of the deeps of the sea that is 

A wonderful passage is to be found in '' Cymbeline," 
Act III., Scene i, that seems to have been strangely 
neglected, where the Queen tells Cymbeline to 
remember — 

" The natural bravery of your isle ; which stands 
As Neptune's park, ribbed and paled in 
With rocks unscaleable and roaring waters ; 
With sands that will not bear your enemies' boats, 
But suck them up to the top-mast." 

And again, in the same scene, Cloten speaks of the 
Romans finding us in our '^salt-water girdle." 

But no play of Shakespeare's, except ^'The Tempest," 
smacks so smartly of the brine as " Pericles," the story 
of that much enduring Prince of Tyre whose nautical 
mishaps are made to have such a miraculously happy 
ending. In Act II., Scene i, enter Pericles, wet, 
invoking Heaven that the sea having manifested its 


A Sack of Shakings 

sovereignty over man, may grant him one last boon, 
— a peaceful death. To him appear three fishermen 
characteristically engaged in handling their nets, 
bullying one another, and discussing the latest wreck. 
And here we get a bit of sea-lore that all sailors 
deeply appreciate. ^' y^d Fish. Nay, master, said 
not I as much, when I saw the porpus how he 
bounced and tumbled ? they say, they are half fish, 
half flesh ; a plague on them ! they ne'er come but 
I look to be wash'd." Few indeed are the sailors 
even in these steamship days who have not heard 
that the excited leaping of porpoises presages a storm. 
The whole scene well deserves quotation, especially 
the true description of the whale (rorqual) '* driving 
the poor fry before him and at last devours them 
all at a mouthful." Space presses, however, and it 
will be much better for those interested to read for 
themselves. Act III., Scene i, brings before us a 
companion picture to that in the opening of ^'The 
Tempest," perhaps even more vivid ; where the terrible 
travail of the elements is agonisingly contrasted with 
the birth-wail of an infant, and the passing of the 
hapless Princess. Beautiful indeed is the rough but 
honest heartening offered by the labouring sailors, 
broken off by the sea-command to — 

" \st Sailor. Slack the bolins there ; thou wilt not, wilt thou ? 
Blow and split thyself. 
^nd Sailor. But sea-room, an' the brine and cloudy billow kiss 
the moon, I care not." 

Bolins, modern ^'bowlines," were anciently used 
much more than now. At present they are slight 


Shakespeare and the Sea 

ropes which lead from forward to keep the weather 
edges (leaches) of the courses rigid in light winds 
when steering full and bye. But in olden days even 
topgallant sails had their bolins, and they were 
among the most important ropes in the ship. Then 
we have the sea-superstition creating the deepest 
prejudice against carrying a corpse. And, sym- 
pathetic as the mariners are, the dead woman must 
*' overboard straight." Reluctantly we must leave 
this all too brief sketch of Shakespeare's true British 
sea-sympathies, in the hope that it may lead to a 
deeper appreciation of the sea-lore of our mightiest 



It has been my lot, in the course of a fairly com- 
prehensive experience of sea-life in most capacities 
between lamp -trimmer and chief officer, to serve 
under some queer commanders, but of all that I ever 
endured, the worthy of whom I am about to tell 
was, without doubt, the most amazing specimen. I 
have been told, on good authority, that the tag about 
fact being stranger than fiction is all bosh, but foj: 
once I am going to disregard that statement. No 
fiction that I have ever read has told me anything 
half so strange, in my poor judgment, as the career 
of Captain Jones during the time that I was unfor- 
tunate enough to be his mate, and therefore I shall 
stick to fact, at least as much of it as I can tell that 
will be fit for publication. 

In order to launch my story fairly it is necessary 
to go back a little. On my return to London from 
my last voyage, with a pay-day of some ^^20, I had 
done two important things, though with the easy 
confidence of youth, and especially seafaring youth, 
their gravity had not impressed me. I got married 
and ''passed" for chief mate. Neither my wife 
nor myself had a friend in the world, any certain 
employment or a stick of ''plenishing." And after 
a honeymoon of a day or two the tiny group of 
sovereigns nestling at the bottom of my right-hand 


The Skipper of the "Amulet" 

trousers pocket dwindled so that I could hardly 
jingle them. There were plenty of ships in London 
at the time, but although I walked the soles fairly 
off my boots around the dreary docks never a 
one could I find where a second mate even \ya.s 
wanted. I found a good many where the officers 
were foreigners ; Germans or Scandinavians ; still 
more ''where they didn't keep the officers by the 
ship in dock," and one day I was offered a chance 
to go first mate of a 1500 ton tramp to the Baltic 
at £^ a month! In spite of the shameful inade- 
quacy of the salary I rushed off to the Surrey 
Commercial Docks after the berth, and arrived on 
board of her breathless, only to find that another 
man had got to windward of me, having earlier 
information. Sadly I trudged back again and re- 
commenced my search, my funds all but gone and 
no credit obtainable. But now I couldn't even get 
a ship before the mast ! Gangs of ruffianly dock- 
wallopers fought like tigers at the ''chain-locker," 
whenever a skipper seeking a hand or two poked his 
head out of one of the doors, flourishing their dis- 
charges (?) in the air as they surged around the half- 
scared man. Anxious and indeed almost despairing 
as I was, I could not compete wdth that crowd, and 
I don't believe I should ever have got a ship, but 
that one day a stalwart, pleasant-faced man opened 
the door. When the gang began to mob him he 
roared, " I don' want navvies — 1 want a sailor-man : 
git t' hell out o' that, and let one o' them behind ye 
come here." Instantly I flung myself into the crowd 
and thrust my way up to him. He took my proffered 


A Sack of Shakings 

discharge, but handed it back at once saying, '' I 
don't want no steamboat sailors." He didn't under- 
stand the thing, being a Nova Scotiaman. I screamed 
back the truth at him, and pushed my way past 
him into the office, my heart fairly thumping with 
excitement at the prospect of ^^3 a month to go to 
Nova Scotia in the middle of winter. I winced a 
Httle when I found that she was only a brigantine, 
but the advance note for £2> was such a godsend 
that I could only be thankful. 

Of the passage across in the Wanderer I need 
say nothing here except that the sea kindliness of the 
little craft (the smallest I had ever sailed in) amazed 
me, while, except for a disaster in the shape of a 
cook, the general conditions of hfe on board were 
most comfortable. After twenty days we arrived at 
Sydney, Cape Breton, and upon entering the harbour 
noticed a vessel lying disconsolately apart from the 
little fleet at anchor there. She was a brig belonging 
to Workington, exactly like an exaggerated barge 
as to her hull, and bearing all over unmistakable 
evidences of utter neglect. In fact her general ap- 
pearance suggested nothing so much to me as the 
nondescript craft common on the Indian coast, and 
called by sailors '^country-wallahs." She provided 
us with plenty of material for our evening chat, but 
in the morning other matters claimed our attention 
and we soon forgot all about her. As we had come 
over in ballast our stay w^as to be short, and on the 
second day after our arrival news came that we were 
to proceed to Lingan, a small port down the coast, 
in the morning, and there load soft coal for St. John, 


The Skipper of the "Amulet" 

New Brunswick. But, much to my surprise, just 
after supper, as I was leaning over the rail enjoying 
my pipe, the mate approached me mysteriously and 
beckoned me aft. As soon as we w^ere out of hear- 
ing of the other men, he told me that if I liked to 
put my dunnage over into the boat, he would pull 
me ashore, the skipper having intimated his willing- 
ness to let me go, although unable to discharge me 
in the regular way. He had heard that there was a 
vessel in the harbour in w^ant of a mate, and hoped 
that thus I might be able to better myself. Being 
quite accustomed to all vicissitudes of fortune I at 
once closed with the offer, and presently found my- 
self on the beach of this strange place without one 
cent in my pocket, in utter darkness and a loneliness 
like that of some desert island. 

I sat quite still for some little time, trying to sum 
up the situation, but the night being very cold, I had 
to move or get benumbed. Leaving my bag and bed 
where it was I groped my way into the town, and 
after about a quarter of an hour's stumbling along 
w^hat I afterwards found was the main street, I saw 
a feeble light. Making for it at once I discovered a 
man standing at the door of a lowdy shanty smoking, 
the light I had seen proceeding from a tallow candle 
flickering in the interior. Receiving my salutation 
with gruff heartiness the man bade me welcome to 
such shelter as he had, so I lugged my dunnage up 
and entered. He showed me an ancient squab 
whereon I might lie, and closing the street door bade 
me good night, disappearing into some mysterious 
recess in a far corner. I composed myself for sleep, 


A Sack of Shakings 

but the place was simply alive with fleas, which, 
tasting fresh stranger, gave me a lively time. Before 
morning I was bitterly envious of the other occupant 
of the room, who lay on the bare floor in a drunken 
stupor, impervious to either cold or vermin. At the 
first gleam of dawn I left, taking a brisk walk until 
somebody was astir in the place, when I soon got 
quarters in a boarding-house. Then as early as 
possible I made for the shipping office, finding to my 
surprise that the vessel in want of a mate was the 
ancient relic that had so much am.used us as we 
entered the harbour. After a good deal of searching, 
the commander of her was found — a bluff, red-faced 
man with a watery, wandering eye, whose first words 
bewrayed him for a Welshman. He was as anxious 
to get a mate as I was to get a ship, so we were not 
long coming to terms — £6 per month. Her name I 
found was the Amulet, last from Santos, and now 
awaiting a cargo of coal for St. John, New Brunswick. 
No sooner had I signed articles than the skipper 
invited me to drink with him, and instantly became 
confidential. But as he had already been drinking 
pretty freely, and even his sober English was no great 
things, I was not much the wiser for our conference. 
However, bidding him good day, I went on board and 
took charge, finding the old rattletrap in a most 
miserable condition, the second mate in a state of 
mutiny, and the crew doing just whatever they pleased. 
I had not been on board an hour before I was in 
possession of the history of their adventures since 
leaving England eighteen months before. I found 
too that I was the fourth mate that voyage, and 


The Skipper of the ^^ Amulet" 

judging from appearances I thought it unhkely that I 
should be the last. As soon as he had finished un- 
burdening himself to me, the second mate, who seemed 
a decent fellow enough, started to pack up, swearing 
in both Welsh and English that he was finished with 
her. Of course I had no means of preventing him 
from going even if I had wished to do so, and away 
he went. Then I turned my attention to the ship, 
finding the small crew (seven all told) desperately 
sullen, but still willing to obey my orders. Oh, but 
she was a wreck, and so dirty that I hardly knew 
whether it was worth while attempting to cleanse her. 
There was abundance of good fresh food though, and 
one of the men helped the grimy muttering Welsh lad 
who was supposed to be the cook, so that the meals 
were at least eatable. According to my orders I was 
to report progress to the skipper every morning at 
his hotel, and next morning I paid him a visit. I 
found him in bed, although it was eleven o'clock, 
with a bottle of brandy sticking out from under his 
pillow and quite comfortably drunk. He received 
my remarks with great gravity, graciously approving 
of what I had done, and assuring me that he was very 
ill indeed. I left him so, thinking deeply over my 
queer position, and returned on board to find the 
second mate back again in a furious rage at not being 
able to get at the '' old man," but resigned to going 
with us to St. John as a passenger. Well, as time 
went on I managed to get her in some sort of trim, 
received the cargo on board, bent the sails, and made 
all ready for sea, the second mate lolling at his ease 
all day long or in his bunk asleep. Every morning I 

6^ E 

A Sack of Shakings 

saw the skipper, always in bed and always drunk. 
Thus three weeks passed away. When the vessel had 
been a week ready for sea, during most of which time 
a steady fair wind for our departure had been blowing, 
I had a visitor. After a few civil questions he told me 
he was the agent, and proposed giving the captain one 
day longer in which to clear out, failing which he 
would on his own responsibiHty send the vessel to sea 
without him. I of course raised no objection, but 
seized the opportunity to get a few pounds advance of 
wages which I at once despatched home to my wife. 
The agent's threat was effectual, for at noon the next 
day my commander came on board accompanied by 
a tugboat which towed us out to sea, although a fair 
wind was blowing. No sooner had the pilot left us to 
our own devices than Captain Jones retired to his bunk, 
and there he remained, his cabin no bad representation 
of a miniature Malebolge. Details impossible. 

Unfortunately I had so severely injured my left 
hand that I could not use it at all, and the second 
mate, though perfectly friendly with me, would do 
nothing but just keep a look-out while I got some 
sleep ; he wouldn't even trim sail. The first day out 
I took sights for longitude by the chronometer, which 
I had kept regularly wound since I had been on 
board, but I found to my horror that it had been 
tampered with, and was utterly useless. It was now 
the latter end of November, fogs and gales were of 
everyday occurrence, the currents were very strong 
and variable, and I was on an utterly strange coast in 
command for the first time in my life. When I saw 
the sun, which was seldom, I thought myself lucky 


The Skipper of the ^'Amulet" 

to get the latitude, and Sable Island under my lee 
with its diabolical death-traps haunted me waking 
and sleeping. My only hope of escaping disaster 
was in the cod-schooners, which, as much at home in 
those gloomy, stormy waters as a cabman in London 
streets, could always be relied on to give one a fairly 
accurate position. Then the rotten gear aloft kept 
giving out, and there was nothing to repair it with, 
while the half-frozen men could hardly be kept out 
of their little dog-hole at all. Only one man in the 
ship was having a good time, and that was the 
skipper. Hugging a huge jar of '^ chain lightning " 
brandy he never wanted anything else, and no one 
ever went near him except the poor little scalawag of 
a cook, who used to rate him in Welsh until the 
discord was almost deafening. But if I were to tell 
fairly the story of that trip round Nova Scotia it 
would take a hundred pages. So I must hurry on to 
say that we did reach St. John by God's especial 
mercy, and laid her alongside the wharf. 

I am afraid I shall hardly be believed when I say 
that Captain Jones reappeared on deck at once and 
went ashore, promising to return by six o'clock. 
Now the tide rises and falls in St. John's over thirty 
feet, so when night came the Amulet was resting 
on the mud, and the edge of the wharf was very 
nearly level with our main-top. I had prepared a 
secure gangway with a bright lantern for my supe- 
rior's return, but about eleven o'clock that night 
he strolled down and walked calmly over the edge 
of the wharf where the gangway was not. All 
hands were aroused by his frantic cries of '' Misser 

■ 67 

A Sack of Shakings 

Bewlon, Misser Bewlon, for Gaw' sake safe my 
lyve ! " After much search we found him and 
hoisted him on board out of the mud in which he 
was embedded to the armpits. No bones were 
broken, and next day he was well enough to climb 
ashore and get into a conveyance which took him 
up town to another ''hotel." A repetition of the 
tactics of Sydney now set in, except that I did not 
visit him so frequently. The second mate and one 
of the men got their discharge out of him and left 
us, in great glee at their escape. Then I think 
some one must have remonstrated with him whose 
words were not to be made light of, for one day 
he came on board and tried to get all hands to sign 
a paper that he had got drawn up, certifying that 
he was a strictly sober man ! He was so hurt at 
their refusal. Finally he re-embarked, bringing a 
tugboat and pilot with him as before, and the startling 
news that we were to tow right across the Bay of 
Fundy and up the Basin of Minas to Parrsboro', but 
no sooner were we abreast of Partridge Island than 
again my commander disappeared below. All through 
the night the panting tug toiled onward with us, the 
pilot remaining at his post till dawn. Fortunately for 
my peace of mind I knew little about the perilous 
navigation of this great bay, the home of the fiercest 
tides in the world. But when, drawing near Cape 
Blomidon, I saw the rate at which we were being 
hurled along by the fury of the inrushing flood, I 
felt profoundly thankful that the responsibility for 
our safety was not upon me. However, we arrived 
intact that afternoon and proceeded up the river, 


The Skipper of the "Amulet" 

which was as crooked as a ram's horn, and only 
began to have any water in its bed when it was half 
flood outside. As we neared the village the pilot 
asked me to what wharf we were going, as we could 
not lay in the dry river bed. I knew no more than 
he did, and neither of us could shake any sense 
into the unconscious skipper. So we tied her up 
to the first jetty we came to, and pilot and tugboat 
took their departure. There was a fine to-do when 
the wharfinger heard of our arrival, and I had to 
go up to the village and ask all round for informa- 
tion as to where we were to lie. I got instructions 
at last, and shifted to a berth where we were allowed 
to remain. Next day the old man went ashore again, 
saying nothing to me, and I remained in ignorance 
of his whereabouts for ten days. Meanwhile lumber 
began to arrive for us, and a scoundrelly stevedore 
came on board with the skipper's authority to stow 
the cargo. He and I quickly came to loggerheads, 
for I did not at all fancy the way he was '* blowing 
her up," and the dread of our winter passage to 
Europe lay heavy upon me. But I found that all 
power to interfere with him was taken out of my 
hands, and I just had to stand by and see potential 
murder being done. 

At last one day at dinner-time the old man paid 
us a visit, characteristically announcing himself by 
falling between the vessel and the wharf into the 
ice-laden water. Of course he wasn't hurt — didn't 
even get a chill, but he was taken back to his '^ hotel," 
and came no more to see us. With the completion 
of our deck-load my patience was exhausted, and as 


A Sack of Shakings 

soon as she was ready for sea, I hunted him up and 
demanded my discharge. I felt prepared to take 
all reasonable risks, but to cross the Atlantic in 
December with a vessel like a top-heavy bladder 
under me, and myself the sole officer, w^as hardly 
good enough. Of course he wouldn't release me, 
and the upshot was, to cut my yarn short, that I 
remained ashore penniless, while he towed back to 
St. John, engaged another unfortunate mate, and after ^ 
a week's final spree, sailed for home. As I had 
expected, she got no farther than the mouth of the 
Bay of Fundy. There her old bones were finally 
broken up in a howling snowstorm, in which several 
of the crew were frozen to death, but he escaped to : 
worry better men again. : 

Two years after in the Court of Queen's Bench we 
met again, when I arose, the one essential witness 
to his misdoings, and made him feel as if my turn 
had come at last. 



Enchained by the innumerable complexities of 
modern city existence, how strangely, how sweetly, 
do the dreams of roaming amid isles of perpetual 
summer come to the pale slave of civilisation. Lean- 
ing back in his office chair, the pen drops idly from 
his relaxed fingers, while the remorseless hum from 
the human hive without loses its distinctive note 
and becomes by some strange transmutation the 
slumberous murmur of snowy surf upon far-off coral 
shores. The dim ceiling, that so often has seemed 
to press upon his brain like the load of Atlas, melts 
upward into a celestial canopy of a blue so deep and 
pure that it is the last expression of the Infinite. 

On the wings of fancy, swifter and more easeful 
than those of the albatross, he is wafted to those 
fairy shores where Nature smiles in changeless youth 
and winterless glow. Through every weary sinew 
thrills the bright message of life, the unconscious 
outcome of perfect health absorbed from perfect 
surroundings. He is back again in the days of the 
world's infancy, feeling his mid-millennial vigour 
bounding in every pulse, flooding every artery. In 
cunningly-fashioned canoe, with grass-woven sails, 
he floats upon the radiant sea, so like to the heaven 


A Sack of Shakings 

above that his gliding shallop seems to swing through 
the boundless ether, a sprite, a fay of the fruitful 

Then as the flood-tide of living bubbles over the 
brim of restraint he lifts a mighty voice, a full-throated 
cry of joy wherein is no speech nor language, only 
exultant music welling up from deeps of fathomless 
satisfaction. He springs erect, with flashing eyes, 
and rolling muscles heaving under his shining skin, 
such a figure as, made in His own glorious image, 
the Master gazed upon — and, behold, it was very 
good. Far below him swim the gorgeous sea-folk, 
each ablaze with colour, living jewels enhanced by 
their setting. In mazy evolutions full of grace they 
woo him to join in their play, to explore with them 
the splendours of the coral groves, to wreath about 
his majestic form the tender festoons of sea-flowers 
and deck himself with glowing shells. 

Like a dolphin he dives, deeper and deeper as 
with grasping hands he overcomes the resisting 
waters. Deeper and deeper yet until the fervent 
sunshine is suffused into a milder, tenderer light, 
and everything around is enwrapped in a beauty- 
mist, a glamorous illusion that melts all angles into 
curves of loveliness. He enters into the palaces of 
the deep, and all the skill of Titanic builders on earth 
becomes to his mind a thing of naught. Interminable 
rows of columns, all symmetrical, each perfect in 
beauty, yet none alike, are arrayed before him ; massy 
architraves, domes light-springing from their piers as 
bubbles, yet in circumference so vast that their limits 
are lost in shadow, slender spires of pearl, soaring 


Among the Enchanted Isles 

upward like vapour-wreaths : and all interwoven with 
the wondrous design a fairy tracery of stone, appear- 
ing light and luminous as sea foam. The happy living 
things troop forth to meet him and sweep in many 
a delicate whirl around until, recalled by the need of 
upper air, he waves them farewell and ascends. 

Oh ! the fierce delight of that swift upward rush, 
the culminating ecstasy as he bounds into the pal- 
pitating air above and lies, so softly cradled, upon the 
limpid wave ! There for a season he floats, drinking 
deep of the brine-laden air, every touch of the sea 
a caress, every heart-beat a well-spring of pleasure. 
Then with a shout he hurls himself forward as if he 
too were a free citizen of the ocean, emulating with 
almost equal grace the sinuous spring of the porpoise 
and the marvellous succession of curves presented 
by the overwhelming whale. He claims kindred with 
them all, embraces them ; clinging lovingly to their 
smooth sides he frolics with them, rejoicing in the 
plenitude of their untainted strength. 

Before him rise the islands, mounds of emerald 
cresting bases of silver sand. Willowy palm-trees 
dip their roots in the warm wavelets and rear their 
tufted coronets on high. Darker-leaved, the orange- 
trees droop their branches shot with golden gleams 
where the fruit hangs heavily, filling the gentle air 
with fragrance. Bright-plumaged birds flash amongst 
the verdure ; along the glittering shores rest placidly 
the sea-fowl returned from their harvesting and com- 
forting their fluffy broods. With huge steps he strides 
shorewards, and springing lightly from the sand, he 
reaches in a dozen bounds the crown of the loftiest 


A Sack of Shakings 

palm, whose thickly-clustering fruit bids him drink 
and drink again. 

The island folk dread him not ; fear has not yet 
visited those sunny shores. And as he was with the 
sea-people so is he with their compeers on land, a 
trusted playfellow, a creature perfect in glory and 
beauty, able to vie with them in their superb activities, 
their amazing play of vigour, their abounding joy in 
the plentiful gifts of Nature. 

After those sunny gambols, how sweet the rest on 
yielding couch of leaves, fanned by sweet zephyrs 
laden with the subtle scents of luxuriant flowers, 
and lulled by the slumber-song of the friendly sea. 
Around him, with drooping wing, nestle the birds ; 
the bejewelled insects hush their busy songs into 
tenderest murmurs, the green leaves hang in un- 
rustling shade, noiselessly waving over him a cool 
breath. There is peace and sleep. 

^' Awake, O laggard ! " cry the birds ; *' awake and 
live ! Joy comes anew. Love and life and strength 
are calling us, and every sense answers triumphantly. 
Sweet is the dawn when the splendid sun springs 
skyward and the quiet night steals away ; sweet is 
the strength of noonday, when downward he sends 
his shafts of life-giving flame, and we lie in the 
shade renewing from his exhaustless stores of energy 
our well-spent strength. But sweetest of all the 
time when, his majestic ascension accomplished, our 
sun sweeps; westward to his ocean-bed, and all his 
children hasten to revel in [his tempered beams until 
he hides his glorious face for a season, and night 
brings her solemn pleasures." 


Among the Enchanted Isles 

Swift upspringing the man answers gladly to the 
call. And forth to meet him come a joyous band of 
his fellows, their dancing feet scarce touching the 
earth. Not a weakling among them. Men and 
women and children alike clean-limbed and strong, 
with sparkling eyes and perfect gestures. Their 
nude shapes shine like burnished bronze with natural 
unguents, their white and well-set teeth glitter as they 
laugh whole-heartedly, their black, abundant hair is 
entwined with scarlet hibiscus, and their voices 
ring musical and full. They do not walk — they 
bound, they spring, and toss their arms in wildest 

Surrounding him, they bear him away to where a 
crystal river rushes headlong down through a valley 
of velvet green to cast itself tumultuously over a cliff- 
lip forty feet into the sea. As it approaches its leap 
the translucent waters whirl faster and faster in rising 
wreaths and ridges of dazzling white, until in one 
snowy mass, crowned with a pearly mist, it hurls 
itself into the smooth blue depths below. With one 
accord the wildly gambolling band hurl themselves 
into those limpid waters some hundreds of yards 
above the fall. As on softest couch they glide swiftly 
along, their peals of laughter echoing multitudinously 
from the green bosoms of the adjacent hills." 

Faster and faster still they are borne onward until, 
singly and in groups, they flash out into the sunshine 
and plunge into the awaiting ocean. So swiftly do 
they pass that it seems but a breathing space since, 
far inland, they sprang from the banks into the river, 
and they now lie in blissful content upon the quiet 


A Sack of Shakings 

sea, every nerve tingling from that frantic, headlong 
flight. Then, like the care-free children of Nature 
that they are, they abandon 'themselves to their wild 
sea-sports, outdoing the fabled Nereids. Around 
them gather in sympathy the gorgeous dolphins, the 
leisurely sharks, the fun-loving porpoises, while over 
their heads dart incessantly in arrowy flight glittering 
squadrons of flying-fish. 

So they frolic untiringly until, by one impulse 
moved, they all dash off to where, outside the enor- 
mous headland of black rock which shelters the little 
bay, the vast and solemn ocean swell comes rolling 
shoreward, towering higher as it comes, until, meet- 
ing the bright beach, it raises itself superbly in 
one magnificent curve of white, and dashes against 
the firm-set earth with a deep note as of far-oft' 

The merry players range themselves in line and 
swim seaward to meet the next wave as it comes. 
Diving beneath it they reappear upon its creaming 
shoulders, and by sheer skill balance there, elated 
almost beyond bearing by the pace of their mighty 
steed. Higher and higher they rise, clothed by the 
hissing foam, until from its summit they spring to 
land and race to the woods. 

Only a breathing space passes, and again they 
come rushing shoreward to where a mimic fleet of 
light canoes lies covered wdth boughs to shield them 
from the sun. As if time were all important, they 
fling the leaves aside and rush the frail craft into the 
water, springing in as they glide afloat. Two by two 
they sail away, an occasional persuasive touch of the 


Among the Enchanted Isles 

paddles sufficing to guide and propel them whither- 
soever they will. 

The sun is nearing the western edge of their world, 
and his slanting beams are spreading lavishly over 
the silken waters broad bands of rich and swiftly 
changing colour. A hush that is holy is stealing 
over all things, a stillness so profound that the light 
splash of a flying-fish tinkles clear as a tiny bell. 
The happy people float along in a delicious lan- 
guor, feasting their eyes upon the doubled beauty 
of the landscape near the shore, where the line 
dividing the reality from its reflection cannot be 

Beneath them are constantly changing pictures no 
less lovely, the marvellous surfaces of the living coral 
with all its wealth of tinted anemones and brilliantly- 
decked fish of all shapes and all hues. Carried by 
the imperceptible current, they pass swiftly, silently, 
from scene to scene, over depths so profound that 
the waters are almost blue-black, and as suddenly 
coming upon a submarine grove of rigid coral trees, 
whose topmost branches nearly break through the 
placid surface. 

Presently the sun is gone, and the tender veil of 
night comes creeping up from the East. Already 
the Evening Star, like a minute moon, is sending a 
long thread of silver over the purpling sea. Beneath 
the waters the sea-folk have bc^gun their nightly 
illumination, and overhead are peeping out, one by 
one, the vedettes of the night. Bird and beast and 
fish have ceased their play, and a gentle wind arises. 
The canoes glide shoreward noiselessly, and the 


A Sack of Shakings 

voyagers seek through scented pathways their leafy 

'^ Poor fellow, you look a bit stale and over- 
worked ! You ought to run down to the seaside for 
a week ! " 

And the suddenly-awakened clerk starts up, mutter- 
ing a half-intelligible apology to his employer, who 
stands regarding him with a look of pity. But for a 
few fleeting moments he has been perfectly happy. 



In one of the most charming chapters of that truly- 
charming book, Gilbert White's '^Natural History 
of Selborne," the gentle author tells of some strange 
instances of sociability among the denizens of the 
farmyard, a craving for companionship that brought 
into intimate acquaintanceship such widely differing 
animals as a horse and a hen, a doe and some cattle. 
This, as a proof that loneliness is an abnormal 
condition of life even among the lesser intelligences 
of creation, ^' gives to think," as our neighbours say ; 
but probably few people would imagine that the 
same desire for society obtains even among the 
inhabitants of the deep and wide sea. 

I do not now speak of such gregarious fish as 
compose the great shoals that beneficently visit the 
shallower waters washing populous countries, from 
whose innumerable multitudes whole nations may 
be fed without making any appreciable diminution 
in their apparently infinite numbers ; but of those 
more varied and widely scattered species that are 
to be found near the sea-surface all over the ocean. 
In the ordinary routine of modern passenger traffic 
no observation of these truly deep-sea fish is possible, 
for, in the first place, the breathless panting of the 
propeller fills them with dread of the swiftly-gliding 
monster whose approach it heralds ; and in the next, 


A Sack of Shakings 

the would-be observer has no time to catch even a 
glimpse of the inhabitants of that teeming world 
beneath him with, perhaps, the exception of a rapidly- 
passing school of porpoises or the hurried vision of 
a sea-shouldering whale. 

No, for the deliberate observation necessary in 
order to know something of the sea-people a sailing- 
ship must be chosen, the slower the better, one 
wherein may be felt to its fullest extent by the 
mindless, sightless passenger the '' intolerable tedium 
of a long voyage." In such a ship as this the student 
of marine natural history, provided he be not re- 
sponsible to stern owners for the length of his pas- 
sage, will welcome with great delight the solemn 
hush of the calm, when the windless dome above 
him is filled with perfect peace, and the shining 
circle upon which he floats is like the pupil of God's 
eye. Then, leaning over the taffrail, looking earnestly 
down into the crystalline blue, you may see the 
bottom of the ship without visible support as if 
poised in a sky of deeper blue and more limpid 
atmosphere. The parasitic life that has already 
attached itself to the vessel is all busy living. Bar- 
nacles with their long, glutinous feet-stalks waving 
in imperceptible motion, are expanding from be- 
tween their shells delicate fringes of brown, that, 
all eyes to see and hands to hold, allow nothing that 
can feed them to pass them by. And as they flex 
themselves inward with the supplies they have drawn 
from the apparently barren water, you can fancy 
that the pearly whiteness of the shells gleams with a 
brighter lustre as of satisfaction. The dull-hued 
^ 80 

Sociable Fish 

limpets, like pustules breaking out upon the ship's 
sheathing, may also be discerned, but less easily, 
because they have such a neutral tint, and 
love to nestle amongst a tangle of dank, deep- 
green sea-moss, that, except where the light from 
above breaks obliquely down upon it, looks almost 

But a little patient watching will reveal a set of 
tiny arms forth-darting from the irregular opening 
in the apex of each limpet-cone. They, too, are busy 
continually, arresting every morsel, invisible to feeble 
human sight, that comes within their reach, and 
passing it within for the up-keep of the compact, 
self-contained residence. And there, can it be pos- 
sible, at all this distance from land ? It is not only 
possible but undeniable that there is a crab^ an 
impudent, inquisitive little tangle of prying claws 
surrounding a disc about the size of a shilling. He 
strolls about in leisurely fashion, but making a track 
at all sorts of angles, among the living fixtures, skirt- 
ing each barnacle or limpet with a ludicrous air of 
contempt, as it seems. You can almost imagine him 
saying : '' I never saw such a lot of dead-an'-alive 
ornaments in my life. Say ! how d'you like stoppin' 
in the same old spot for ever an' ever ? " But, im- 
pervious to his rudeness, the busy creatures never 
cease their one set of movements, utterly ignoring his 
very existence. You cannot help but wonder w^hat 
becomes of that little crab when the ship begins to 
move, for you know that he can't possibly hold on 
against the tremendous brushing past of the water. 
He isn't built for that. 

8 1 F 

A Sack of Shakings 

The other parasites, whether animal or vegetable, 
have, you notice, been busy for who shall say how 
long adapting themselves to every condition of their 
dependent life, so that now, whatever motion be 
made by the ship, they present to the onrush of 
the water just the right angle of surface that will 
allow it to slip over them easily, while at the same 
time they are always in a position to levy contribu- 
tions. There is a puzzling lead-coloured streak along 
the copper near the keel to which your eye returns 
again and again, for although it will*persist in looking 
like a place whence a strip of sheathing has been torn, 
there is yet a suggestion of quivering life about it 
which is certainly not the tremulous outhne given 
to every inanimate object under water. Suddenly 
your doubts are set at rest — the mystery is solved. 
The steward has cast over the side some fragments 
of food that settle slowly downwards, turning over 
and over as they sink and catching the diffused light 
at every point, so that they sparkle like gems. As 
they pass the almost motionless keel the leaden- 
looking streak suddenly detaches itself, and, almost 
startlingly revealed as a graceful fish, intercepts and 
swallows those morsels one after the other. You 
fetch a few more fragments, and, dropping them one 
by one, entice your new acquaintance nearer the 
surface, so that you may admire the easy grace of 
every movement, and study at your leisure the result 
of this creature's development along certain lines of 

It is a Rejnora, or "sucker," a species of shark 
that never exceed a dozen pounds in weight. Having 


Sociable Fish 

all the shark's usual qualities of slothfulness, voracity, 
and timorousness, it is prevented from becoming 
ferocious also by its limitations of size and the 
feebleness of its teeth. And as it would be hopeless 
for it to attempt to prey upon other fish while they 
are alive, from its lack of the requisite speed as well 
as from the scarcity of fish of sufficiently small size 
in the deep waters which are its abiding-place, it has 
developed a parasitic habit, which saves it a whole 
world of trouble by insuring its protection, econo- 
mising exertion, and keeping it in the midst of a 
plentiful food-supply. All these objects are attained 
in the simplest manner possible, aided by an unfailing 
instinct guiding the creature in its selection of an 
involuntary host. 

On the top of its head, which is perfectly flat, it 
has developed an arrangement which has, perhaps, 
the most artificial appearance of anything found in 
animated Nature. It is in plan an oblong oval, with 
a line running along its middle, to which other 
diagonal lines, perfectly parallel to each other, extend 
from the outer edge. The whole thing is curiously 
like the non-slipping tread moulded upon the soles 
of many lawn-tennis shoes. This strangely patterned 
contrivance is really an adhesive attachment of such 
strength that, when by its means the fish is holding 
on to any plane surface, it is impossible to drag the 
body away, except by almost tearing the fish in half. 
Yet by the flexing of some simple muscles the fish 
can release its body instantly, or as instantly re-attach 
itself. Of course, it always adheres to its host with 
its head pointing in the same direction as the host 


A Sack of Shakings 

usually travels, because in that manner the pressure 
of the water assists the grip of the sucker and keeps 
the whole body lying flatly close to whatever is carry- 
ing it along. In this position it can perform all the 
natural functions. Its wide mouth gapes ; its eyes, 
set one on either side of its flattened head, take in a 
most comprehensive view of the prospect, so that 
nothing having the appearance of edibility can pass 
that way without being seen and, if the speed of its 
host admits, immediately investigated. Thus its socia- 
bility is obviously of the most selfish kind. It sticketh 
closer than a brother, but affection for its protecting 
companion forms no part of its programme. Its 
number is, emphatically. One. 

I have used the word ^*host" intentionally, because 
the remora does not by any means limit its company 
to ships. It is exceedingly fond of attaching itself 
to the body of a whale, and also to some of the 
larger sharks. Indeed, it goes a step further than 
mere outward attachment in the latter case, because 
well - authenticated instances are recorded where 
several suckers have been found clinging to a huge 
shark's palate. This is another stage on the way to 
perfect parasitism, because under such circumstances 
these daring lodgers needed not to detach them- 
selves any more. They had only to intercept suffi- 
cient food for their wants on its way from the front 
door to the interior departments. I have also seen 
them clinging to the jaw of a sperm whale, but that 
jaw was not in working order. It was bent outwards 
at right angles to the body, and afforded harbour- 
age to a most comprehensive collection of parasites, 


Sociable Fish 

barnacles especially, giving the front elevation of 
that whale an appearance utterly unlike anything 
with life. 

But John Chinaman has outwitted the superlatively 
lazy remora. By what one must regard as a triumph 
of ingenuity he has succeeded in converting the very 
means whereby this born-tired fish usually escapes 
all necessity for energy into an instrument for obtain- 
ing gain for other people. The mode is as follows : 
First catch your remora. No difficulty here. A hook 
and line of the simplest, a bait of almost anything that 
looks eatable lowered by the side of a ship, and if 
there be a sucker hidden there he will be after the 
lure instantly. The only skill necessary is to haul 
him up swiftly when he bites, because if he be allowed 
to get hold of the ship again you may pull the hook 
out of his jaws, but you will not succeed in detaching 
him. Having caught a remora, the fisherman fastens 
a brass ring closely round its body, just at its smallest 
part before the spread of the tail. To this he attaches 
a long, fine, and strong line. He then departs for the 
turtle grounds with his prisoner. Arriving there he 
confines himself to keeping the remora away from the 
bottom of his boat by means of a bamboo. Of course 
the captive gets very tired, and no turtle can pass 
within range of him without his hanging on to that 
turtle for a rest. The moment he does so the turtle's 
fate is sealed. Struggle how he may, he cannot shake 
loose the tenacious grip of the sucker, and the stolid 
yellow man in the sampan has only to haul in upon 
the line to bring that unwilling turtle within range 
of his hands and lift him into the boat. And this 


A Sack of Shakings 

ingenious utilisation of the sucker's well - known 
peculiarity has also commended itself to the semi- 
barbarous fishermen of the East African littoral, who 
are not otherwise notable for either ingenuity or 

Before we dismiss the remora to his beloved rest 
again it is worthy of notice that he himself gives 
unwilling hospitality to another sociable creature. It 
is a little crustacean, rather like an exaggerated wood- 
louse, but without the same power of curling itself 
into a ball. It is of a pearly white colour, very 
sluggish in its movements, but with tenacious hooks 
upon its many legs it holds on securely to the inside 
of the sucker's mouth near the gill-slits, being there 
provided with all the needs of its existence, without 
the slightest effort of its own. Its chief interest to 
naturalists lies in its strange likeness to the fossil 
trilobites so plentifully scattered among various geo- 
logical strata. 

But while you have been watching the remora a 
visitor from the vast openness around has arrived, 
as if glad of the society afforded by the ship. Yet 
in this case the idea seems a fond conceit, because 
the new-comer is only a ^'jelly-fish," or '^Medusa." 
It is really an abuse of language to use the word 
'^ fish " in connection with such an almost impalpable 
entity as the Medusa, because while a fish is an 
animal high up the scale of the vertebrata, a Medusa 
is almost at the bottom of the list of created things. 
When floating in the sea it is an exceedingly pretty 
object, with its clear, mushroom-shaped disc upper- 
most, and long fringe of feathery filaments, sometimes 


Sociable Fish 

delicately coloured, waving gracefully beneath with 
each pulsation of the whole mass. It has no power 
of independent locomotion, no — but, there, it is not 
easy to say what it has got, since if you haul one up 
in a bucket and lay it on deck in the sun, it will melt 
entirely away, leaving not a trace behind except two 
or three tiny morsels of foreign matter which did 
not belong to its organism at all. Yet if. one of these 
masses of jelly comes into contact with your bare 
skin it stings like a nettle, for it secretes, in some 
mysterious way, an acrid fluid that serves it instead 
of many organs possessed by further advanced 
creatures. As the present subject passes beneath 
your gaze you notice quite a little cluster of tiny 
fish smaller even than full-grown tittlebats, per- 
haps a dozen or so, who look strangely forlorn in 
the middle of the ocean. It may be that this sense 
of loneliness leads them to seek the shelter of some- 
thing larger than themselves, something which will 
be a sort of rallying-point in such a wide world 
of waters. 

Perhaps the lovely streamers dangling have aroused 
their curiosity, but, whatever the motive, you see the 
little group, huddled round the Medusa, popping in 
and out from the edge of the disc, through which you 
can plainly see them as they pass beneath. It is 
quite pretty to watch those innocent games of the 
sportive little fish, but presently you notice that one 
of them doesn't play any more. He is entangled 
among those elegant fringes and hangs like a little 
silver streak, brightening and fading as it is turned 
by the pulsatory movement of the Medusa. And if 


A Sack of Shakings 

you could watch it long enough you would see it 
gradually disappear, absorbed into the jelly-like sub- 
stance by the solvent secreted by the Medusa for 
that purpose. Still unconscious of their companion's 
fate, the other little victims continue to play in that 
treacherous neighbourhood, voluntarily supplying the 
needs of an organism immeasurably beneath them in 
the sum-total of all those details that go to make up 
conscious life. 

Closely gathered about the rudder and stern-post 
is another group of larger fish, the several individuals 
being from 4 in. to 8 in. long, and most elegant in 
shape and colour. They evidently seek the ship for 
protection, for they scarcely ever leave her vicinity 
for more than 2 ft. or 3 ft. If one of them does dart 
away that distance after some, to you, imperceptible 
morsel of food, it is back again in a flash, sidling 
up to her sheathing closer than ever, as if dreadfully 
alarmed at its own temerity. A small hook baited 
with a fragment of meat will enable you to catch 
one if only you can get it to fall close enough to 
the rudder — no easy matter, because of the great 
overhang of the stern. In the old-fashioned ships, 
where the rudder-head moved in a huge cavity called 
the rudder-trunk, I have often caught them by drop- 
ping my hook down there, and very sweet-eating little 
fish they were. Sailors call them ^^rudder-fish," a 
trivial name derived from their well-known habit, but 
they are really a species of '' caranx," and akin to the 
mackerel tribe, which has so many representatives 
among deep-water fish. They are, perhaps, the most 
sociable of all the fish that visit a ship far out at 


Sociable Fish 

sea ; but they present the same problem that the 
crab did a Httle while ago : What becomes of them 
when a breeze springs up and the vessel puts on 
speed ? 

I have often watched them at the beginning of a 
breeze, swimming steadily along by the side of the 
stern-post, so as to be clear of the eddies raised by 
the rudder ; but it was always evident that a rate 
of over three knots would leave them astern very 
soon. Not less curious is the speculation as to 
whence they come so opportunely. There seems to 
be very few of them, yet an hour or two's calm nearly 
always shows a little company of them cowering in 
their accustomed place. As you watch them wonder- 
ingly, a broad blaze of reflected light draws your 
attention to the splendid shape of a dolphin gliding 
past and exposing the silver shield of his side to the 
sun's rays, which radiate from it with an almost un- 
bearable glare. At that instant every one of the little 
fish beneath you gather into one compact bunch, so 
close to the stern-post that they look as if part of it. 
When they can no longer keep up with the ship's 
protecting bulk how do they escape the jaws of such 
beautiful ravenous monsters as that which has just 
passed ? The swift flying-fish cannot do so, even with 
the swallow-like speed that he possesses and the 
power of skimming through the air for a thousand 
yards at a flight. What chance, then, can our 
shrinking little companions possibly have, or how 
do they survive amidst so many enemies ? It is an 
unsolvable mystery. 

What is this cold grey shadow stealing along 


A Sack of Shakings 

through the bright blue water by the keel ? A 
shark, and a big one too. No one doubts the reason 
for his sociability ; in fact, he (or she) is credited by 
most sailors with a most uncanny knowledge of what 
is going on aboard any ship he chooses to honour 
with his company. We need not be so foolish as 
to believe any of these childish stories, especially 
when the obvious explanation lies so closely on the 
surface. Heredity accounts for a great many things 
that have long been credited with supernatural 
origins, and the shark's attachment to the society of 
ships is so plainly hereditary that the slightest thought 
upon the subject will convince any unbiased person 
of the reasonableness of the explanation. For many 
generations the shark, born scavenger that he is, has 
learned to associate the huge shadow cast by a ship 
with food, not perhaps in such mountainous abund- 
ance as that provided by the carcass of a dead 
whale, but still scattering savoury morsels at fairly 
regular intervals. From its earliest days — when, 
darting in and out of its mother's capacious jaws, 
it has shared in the spoil descending from passing 
ships — to the end of what is often a very long 
life, ships and food are inseparably associated 
in whatever answers to its mind in the shark. 
Man, alive or dead, always makes a welcome change 
of diet to a fish that, by reason of his build, is 
unable to prey upon other fish as do the rest of 
his neighbours. 

As I have said elsewhere, the shark eats man 
because man is easy to catch, not because he likes 
man's flesh better than any other form of food, as 


Sociable Fish 

many landsmen and even sailors believe. But the 
shark is only able to gratify his sociable instincts in 
calms or very light airs. He is far too slothful, too 
constitutionally averse to exertion, to expend his 
energies in the endeavour to keep up with a ship 
going at even a moderate rate of speed. Let the 
wind drop, however, and in few parts of the sea 
will you be without a visit from a shark for many 
hours. In one vessel that I sailed in the skipper had 
such a delicate nose that he could not bear the 
stench of the water in which the day's allowance 
of salt meat had been steeped to get some of the 
pickle out of it. So he ordered a strong net to be 
made of small rope, and into this the meat was put, 
the net secured to a stout line, and hung over the 
stern just low enough to dip every time the vessel 
curtsied. The plan answered admirably for some 
time, until one night the wind fell to a calm, and 
presently the man at the wheel heard a great splash 
behind him. He rushed to the taffrail and looked 
over, just in time to see the darkness beneath all 
aglow with phosphorescence, showing that some 
unusual agitation had recently taken place. He 
ran to the net-lanyard, and, taking a good pull, 
fell backward on deck, for there was nothing fast 
to it. Net and meat were gone. The skipper 
was much vexed, of course, that the net hadn't 
been hauled up a little higher when it fell calm, 
for, as he told the mate, anybody ought to know 
that 30 lbs. of salt pork dangling overboard in a 
calm w^as enough to call a shark up from a 
hundred miles away. 


A Sack of Shakings 

As this particular shark, now sHding stealthily along 
the keel towards the stern, becomes more clearly 
visible, you notice what looks at first like a bright 
blue patch on top of his head. But, strange to say, 
it is not fixed ; it shifts from side to side, backwards 
and forwards, until, as the big fish rises higher, you 
make it out to be the pretty little caranx that shares 
with the crocodile and buffalo birds the reputation 
of being the closest possible companion and chum 
of so strangely diverse an animal to himself. And 
now we are on debatable ground, for this question 
of the sociability of the pilot-fish with the shark has 
been most hotly argued. And perhaps, like the 
cognate question of the flight of flying-fish, it is too 
much to hope that any amount of first-hand testi- 
mony will avail to settle it now. Still, if a man will 
but honestly state what he has seen^ not once, but 
many times repeated, his evidence ought to have 
some weight in the settlement of even the most 
vexed questions. Does the pilot-fish love the shark ? 
Does it even know that the shark is a shark, a slow, 
short-sighted, undiscriminating creature whose chief 
characteristic is that of never-satisfied hunger ? In 
short, does the pilot-fish attach itself to the shark as 
a pilot, with a definite object in view, or is the 
attachment merely the result of accident ? Let 
us see. 

Here is a big shark-hook, upon which we stick a 
mass of fat pork two or three pounds in weight. 
Fastening a stout rope to it, we drop it over the stern 
with a splash. The eddies have no sooner smoothed 
away than we see the brilliant little blue and gold 


Sociable Fish 

pilot-fish coming towards our bait at such speed that 
we can hardly detect the lateral vibrations of his tail. 
Round and round the bait he goes, evidently in a 
high state of excitement, and next moment he has 
darted off again as rapidly as he came. He reaches 
the shark, touches him with his head on the nose, 
and comes whizzing back again to the bait, followed 
sedately by the dull-coloured monster. As if im- 
patient of his huge companion's slowness he keeps 
oscillating between him and the bait until the shark 
has reached it and, without hesitation, has turned 
upon his back to seize it, if such a verb can be 
used to denote the deliberate way in which that 
gaping crescent of a mouth enfolds the lump of 
pork. Nothing, you think, can increase the excite- 
ment of the little attendant now. He seems ubiqui- 
tous, flashing all round the shark's jaws as if there 
were twenty of him at least. But when half-a-dozen 
men, ^' tailing on " to the rope, drag the shark 
slowly upward out of the sea, the faithful little 
pilot seems to go frantic with — what shall we call 
it ? — dread of losing his protector, affection, anger, 
who can tell ? 

The fact remains that during the whole time occu- 
pied in hauling the huge writhing carcass of the shark 
up out of the water the pilot-fish never ceases its 
distracted upward leaping against the body of its 
departing companion. And after the shark has been 
hauled quite clear of the water the bereaved pilot 
darts disconsolately to and fro about the rudder as if 
in utter bewilderment at its great loss. For as long 
as the calm continues, or until another shark makes 


A Sack of Shakings 

his or her appearance, that faithful Httle fish will still 
hover around^ every splash made in the water bring- 
ing it at top speed to the spot as if it thought that its 
friend had just returned. 

No doubt there is a mutual benefit in the un- 
doubted alliance between pilot-fish and shark, for I 
have seen a pilot-fish take refuge, along with a female 
shark's tiny brood, within the parent's mouth at the 
approach of a school of predatory fish, while it is 
only reasonable to suppose, what has often been 
proved to be the fact, that in guiding the shark to 
food the pilot also has its modest share of the feast. 
It is quite true that the pilot-fish will for a time attach 
itself to a boat when its companion has been killed. 
Again and again I have noticed this on a whaling 
voyage, where more sharks are killed in one day 
while cutting in a whale than many sailors see during 
their whole lives. 

Hitherto we have only considered those inhabitants 
of the deep sea that forgather with a ship during a 
calm. Not that the enumeration of them is exhausted, 
by any means, for during long-persisting calms, as I 
have often recorded elsewhere, many queer denizens 
of the middle depths of ocean are tempted by the 
general stagnation to come gradually to the surface 
and visit the unfamiliar light. Considerations of space 
preclude my dealing with many of these infrequent 
visitors to the upper strata of the sea, but I cannot 
refrain from mention of one or two that have come 
under my notice at different times. One especially 
I tried for two days to inveigle by various means, for 
I thought (and still think) that a stranger fish was 


Sociable Fish 

never bottled in any museum than he was. He was 
sociable enough, too. I dare say his peculiar ap- 
pearance was dead against his scraping an acquain- 
tance with any ordinary-looking fish, who, in spite of 
their well-known curiosity, might well be excused 
from chumming up with any such ^' sport " as he 
undoubtedly was. He was about i8 in. long, with 
a head much like a gurnard and a tapering body 
resembling closely in its contour that of a cod. So 
that as far as his shape went there was nothing par- 
ticularly outre in his appearance. But he was bright 
green in colour — at least, the ground of his colour- 
scheme was bright green. He was dotted profusely 
with glaring crimson spots about the size of a six- 
pence. And from the centre of each of these spots 
sprang a brilliant blue tassel upon a yellow stalk 
about an inch long. All his fins — and he had cer- 
tainly double the usual allowance — were also fringed 
extensively with blue filaments, which kept fluttering 
and waving continually, even when he lay perfectly 
motionless, as if they were all nerves. His tail was a 
wonderful organ more than twice as large as his size 
warranted, and fringed, of course, as all his other 
fins were, only more so. His eyes were very 
large and inexpressive, dead-looking in fact, re- 
minding me of eyes that had been boiled. But 
over each of them protruded a sort of horn of 
bright yellow colour for about two inches, at the 
end of which dangled a copious tassel of blue 
that seemed to obscure the uncanny creature's 
vision completely. 

To crown all, a dorsal ridge of crimson rose quite 


A Sack of Shakings 

twojnches, the whole length of his back being finished 
off by a long spike that stuck out over his nose like a 
jibboom, and had the largest tassel of all depending 
from it. So curiously decorated a fish surely never 
greeted man's eye before, and when he moved, which 
he did with dignified slow^ness, the effect of all those 
waving fringes and tassels was dazzling beyond ex- 
pression. I think he must have been some distant 
relation of the angler-fish that frequents certain tidal 
rivers, but he had utilised his leisure for personal 
decoration upon original lines. This was in the 
Indian Ocean, near the Line ; but some years after, 
in hauling up a mass of Gulf weed in the North 
Atlantic, I caught, quite by accident, a tiny fish, not 
two inches long, that strongly reminded me of my 
tasselled friend, and may have been one of the same 
species. I tried to preserve the little fellow in a 
bottle, but had no spirit, and he didn't keep in salt 

By far the most numerous class of sociable deep- 
sea fish, however, are those that delight to accompany 
a ship that is making good way through the water. 
They do not like a steamer — the propeller with its 
tremendous churning scares them effectually away — 
but the silent gliding motion of the sailing-ship seems 
just to their taste. As soon as the wind falls and the 
vessel stops they keep at a distance, only occasionally 
passing discontentedly, as if they wondered why their 
big companion was thus idHng away the bright day. 
Foremost among these, both in numbers and the 
closeness with which they accompany a ship, is the 
''bonito," a species of mackerel so named by the 


Sociable Fish 

Spaniards from their beautiful appearance. They are 
a *' chubby" fish, much more bulky in body in pro- 
portion to their length than our mackerel, for one 
i8 in. long will often tip the scale at 30 lbs. Their 
vigour is tremendous ; there is no other word for it. 
A school of them numbering several hundreds will 
attach themselves to a ship travelling at the rate of 
six to eight knots an hour, and keep her company 
for a couple of days, swimming steadily with her, 
either alongside, ahead, or astern ; but during the 
daytime continually making short excursions away 
after flying -fish or leaping - squid scared up or 
^' flushed " by the approach of the ship. Not only 
so, but as if to w^ork off their surplus energy they 
will occasionally take vertical leaps into the air to a 
height that, considering their stumpy proportions, is 

The probable reason for their sociability is, I think, 
that they know how the passing of the ship's deep 
keel through the silence immediately underlying the 
sea-surface startles upward their natural prey, the 
flying-fish and loligo (small cuttle-fish), and affords 
them ample opportunities for dashing among them 
unobserved. In any case, to the hungry sailor, this 
neighbourly habit of theirs is quite providential. For 
by such simple means as a piece of w^hite rag attached 
to a hook, and let down from the jibboom end to 
flutter over the dancing wavelets like a flying-fish, a 
fine bonito is easily secured, although holding a 
twenty-pounder just out of the water in one's arms 
is calculated to give the captor a profound respect for 
the energy of his prize. Unlike most other fish, they 

97 ^^ 

A Sack of Shakings 

are warm-blooded. Their flesh is dark and coarse, 
but if it were ten times darker and coarser than it is it 
would be welcome as a change from the everlasting 
salt beef and pork. 

The dolphin, about which so much confusion arises 
from the difference in nomenclature between the 
naturalist and the seaman, has long been celebrated 
by poetic writers for its dazzling beauty. But between 
the sailor's dolphin, Coryphcena Hippuris (forgive me 
for the jargon), which is a fish, and the naturalist's 
dolphin, Delphinus deductor^ which is a mammal, there 
is far more difference than there is between a grey- 
hound and a pig. Sailors call the latter a porpoise, 
and won't recognise any distinction between the 
Delphmus and any other small sea mammal (except 
a seal), calling them all porpoises. But no sailor ever 
meant anything else by '' dolphin " than the beautiful 
fish of which I must say a few words in the small 
remaining space at my disposal. For some reason 
best known to themselves the dolphin do not care to 
accompany a ship so closely as the bonito. They are 
by no means so constant in their attention, for when 
the ship is going at a moderate speed they cannot 
curb their impatience and swim soberly along with 
her, and when she goes faster they seem to dislike the 
noise she makes, and soon leave her. But, although 
they do not stick closely to a ship, they like her com- 
pany, and in light winds will hang about her all day, 
showing off their glories to the best advantage, and 
often contributing a welcome mess to the short 
commons of the fo'c's'le. Their average weight is 
about 15 lbs., but from their elegant shape they are a 


Sociable Fish 

far more imposing fish than the bonito. They are 
deepest at the head, which has a rounded fore- 
head with a sharp front, and they taper gradually 
to the tail, which is of great size. A splendid 
dorsal fin runs the whole length of the back, which, 
when it is erected, adds greatly to their appearance 
of size. 

No pen could possibly do justice to the magnificence 
of their colouring, for, like ''shot" silk or the glowing 
tints of the humming-bird, it changes with every turn. 
And when the fish is disporting under a blazing sun 
its glories are almost too brilliant for the unshaded 
eye ; one feels the need of smoked glass through 
which to view them. These wonderful tints begin to 
fade as soon as the fish is caught ; and although there 
is a series of waves of colour that ebb and flow about 
the dying creature, the beauty of the living body is 
never even remotely approached again, in spite of 
what numberless writers have said to the contrary. 
To see the dolphin in full chase after a flying-fish, 
leaping like a glorious arrow forty feet at each lateral 
bound through the sunshine, is a vision worth re- 
membering. I know of nothing more gorgeous under 

The giant albacore, biggest mackerel of them all, 
reaching a weight of a quarter of a ton, does seek the 
society of a ship sometimes, but not nearly so often 
as bonito and dolphin. And although I have caught 
these monsters in the West Indies from boats, I never 
saw one hauled on board ship. It would not be treat- 
ing the monarch of the finny tribe respectfully to 
attempt a description of him at the bare end of my 


A Sack of Shakings 

article, so I must leave him, as well as the ^'skip- 
jack," yellow-tail, and barracouta, for some other 
occasion. Perhaps enough has now been said to 
show that sociability is not by any means confined 
to land animals, although the great subject of the 
sociability of sea-mammals has not even been touched 



Merchant seamen as a rule have very little ac- 
qaintance with the appalling alligator, whose un- 
appeasable ferocity and diabolical cunning make him 
so terrible a neighbour. Had the alligator been a 
seafarer, it is in my mind that mankind would have 
heard little of the savagery of the shark, who, to tell 
the truth fairly, is a much maligned monster ; in- 
capable of seven-tenths of the crimes attributed to 
him, innocent of another two-tenths, and in the 
small balance of iniquity left, a criminal rather from 
accident than from design. But all the atrocities 
attributed by ignorance to the shark may truthfully 
be predicated of the alligator, and many moie also, 
seeing that the great lizard is equally at home on 
land or in the water. 

I speak feelingly, having had painful experience 
of the ways of the terrible saurian during my visits 
to one of the few places where sailors are brought 
into contact with him. Tonala River, which empties 
itself into the Gulf of Mexico, has a sinister notoriety, 
owing to the number of alligators with w^hich it is 
infested; and through the proverbial carelessness of 
seamen and their ignorance of the language spoken 
by the people ashore, many an unrecorded tragedy 
has occurred there to members of the crews of 
vessels loading mahogany in the river. Like all the 


A Sack of Shakings 

streams which debouch into that Western Mediter- 
ranean, Tonala River has a bar across its mouth, but, 
unlike most of them, there is occasionally water upon 
the bar deep enough to permit vessels of twelve or 
thirteen feet draught to enter with safety. And as 
the embarkation of mahogany in the open roadstead 
is a series of hair-breadth escapes from death on the 
part of the crew and attended by much damage 
to the ship, it is easy to understand why the navi- 
gability of Tonala Bar is highly valued by ship- 
masters fortunate enough to be chartered thither, 
since it permits them to take in a goodly portion 
of their cargo in comparative comfort. Against 
this benefit, however, is to be set off a long list 
of disadvantages, not the least of which are the 
swarms of winged vermin that joyfully pass the 
short space between ship and river-bank, scenting 
fresh blood. The idea of there being any danger 
in the river itself, however, rarely occurs to a sea- 
man until he sees, some day, as he listlessly gazes 
overside at the turbid current silently sweeping 
seaward, a dead log floating deep, just awash in 
fact. And as he watches it with unspeculating 
eyes, one end of it will slowly be upreared just a 
little and the hideous head of an alligator, with 
its cold, dead-looking eyes, sleepily half unclosed, 
is revealed. Just a ripple and the thing has gone, 
sunk stone-like, but with every faculty alert, that 
rugged ironclad exterior giving no hint to the un- 
initiated of the potentialities for mischief, swift and 
supple, therein contained. 

In spite of having read much about these creatures 


Alligators and Mahogany 

and their habits, I confess to having been very 
sceptical as to their agility until I was enlightened in 
such a startling manner that the memory of that scene 
is branded upon my mind. I was strolling along the 
smooth sandy bank of the river opposite the strag- 
gling rows of huts we called the town one lovely 
Sunday morning, all eyes and ears for anything 
interesting. After about an hour's walk my legs, 
unaccustomed to such exercise, begged off for a 
little, and seeing a stranded tree-trunk lying on the 
beach some little distance ahead, I made towards it 
for a seat. As I neared it a young bullock came 
leisurely down towards the water from the bush, 
between me and the log. I, of course, took no 
notice of him, but held on my way until within, I 
should say, fifty yards of the log. Suddenly that 
dead tree sprang into life and spun round with a 
movement like the sweep of a scythe. It struck the 
bullock from his feet, throwing him upon his side in 
the water. What ensued was so rapid that the eye 
could not follow it, or make out anything definitely 
except a stirring up of the sand and a few ripples in 
the water. The big animal was carried off as noise- 
lessly and easily as if he had been a lamb, nor, 
although I watched long, did I ever catch sight of 
him again. Notwithstanding the heat of the sun I 
felt a cold chill as I thought how easily the fate of 
the bullock might have been mine. And from thence- 
forth, until familiarity with the hateful reptiles bred 
a sort of contempt for their powers, I kept a very 
sharp look-out in every direction for stranded tree- 
trunks. This care on my part nearly proved fatal, 


A Sack of Shakings 

because I forgot that the alligators might possibly 
be lying hid in the jungly vegetation that flourished 
thickly just above high-water mark. So that it 
happened when I neared the spot where I was to 
hail the boat, as I nervously scanned the beach for 
any sign of a scaly log, I heard a rustling of dry 
leaves on my right, and down towards me glided 
one of the infernal things with a motion almost 
like that of a launching ship. I turned and tried to 
run — I suppose I did run — but to my fancy it 
seemed as if I had a 56-lb. weight upon each foot. 
Hardly necessary to say, perhaps, that I escaped, 
but my walk had lost all its charms for me, and I 
vowed never to come ashore again there alone. 

But as if the performances of these ugly beasts 
were to be fully manifested before our eyes, on the 
very next day, a Greek trader came off to the ship 
accompanied by his son, a boy of about ten years 
old. Leaving the youngster in the canoe, the father 
came on board and tried to sell some fruit he had 
brought. We had a raft of mahogany alongside, 
about twenty huge logs, upon which a half-breed 
Spaniard was standing, ready to sling such as were 
pointed out to him by the stevedores. The boy 
must needs get out of the canoe and amuse himself 
by stepping from log to log, delighted hugely by the 
way they bobbed and tumbled about beneath him. 
Presently a yell from the slingsman brought all hands 
to the rail on the jump, and there, about fifty yards 
from the raft, was to be seen the white arm of the 
boy limply waving to and fro, while a greasy ripple 
beneath it showed only too plainly what horror 


Alligators and Mahogany 

had overtaken him. The distracted father sprang into 
his canoe, four men from our ship manned our own 
boat, and away they went in chase, hopelessly enough 
to be sure. Yet, strange to say, the monster did 
not attempt to go down with his prey. He kept 
steadily breasting the strong current, easily keeping 
ahead of his pursuers, that pitiful arm still waving 
as if beckoning them onward to the rescue of its 
owner. Boat after boat from ships and shore joined 
in the pursuit, every man toiling as if possessed by 
an overmastering energy and impervious to broiling 
sun or deadening fatigue. For five miles the chase 
continued ; one by one the boats and canoes gave 
up as their occupants lost their last ounce of energy, 
until only one canoe still held on, one man still 
plied his paddle with an arm that rose and fell like 
the piston-rod of a steam-engine. It was the bereaved 
father. At last the encouraging arm disappeared, as 
the alligator, having reached his lair, disappeared 
beneath the surface, leaving the river face unruffled 
above him. Quick as a wild duck the solitary 
pursuer swerved and made for the bank, where a 
score of his acquaintances met him tendering gourds 
of aguadiente, cigaritos, and such comfort as they 
could put into words. He took the nearest gourd 
and drank deeply of the fiery spirit, accepted a 
cigarette and lit it mechanically, but never spoke a 
word. All the while his eyes were roving restlessly 
around in search of something. At last they lit upon 
a coil of line hanging upon a low branch to dry. 
He rushed toward it, snatched it from its place, and 
taking his cuchillo from his belt felt its edge. Then 


A Sack of Shakings 

roughly brushing aside all who attempted to hinder 
him, he boarded his canoe again, taking no notice of 
one of his friends who got in after him. Under the 
pressure of the two paddles they rapidly neared the 
spot where the beast had sunk. As soon as they 
reached the place the silent avenger laid aside his 
paddle, took one end of the coil in his hand and 
flinging the other to his companion, slipped overside 
and vanished. In about two minutes he returned 
to the surface, ghastly, his eyes glaring, and taking 
a long, long breath disappeared again. This time 
he did not return. When the watcher above felt 
that all hope was gone he hauled upon the line as 
much as he dared, but could not move what it 
was secured to. Soon, however, boats came to his 
assistance, and presently extra help raised to the 
surface the huge armoured body of the man-eater, 
the line being fast round his hind legs. The bereaved 
father was clinging to the monster's throat, one arm 
thrust between his horrid jaws and the other hand 
still clutching the haft of the bowie-knife, whose blade 
was buried deep in the leathery folds of the great neck. 
With bared heads and solemn faces the helpers towed 
the group ashore, and reverently removing the poor 
remains of father and son, buried them deep under 
a wide-spreading tree. 

In the intervals (frequently occurring) between the 
shipment of one consignment of logs and the arrival 
of another, it was part of our duties to hunt along 
the river banks for ownerless log-ends or even logs 
of mahogany or cedar which we might saw and split 
up into convenient pieces for broken stowage or 

1 06 

Alligators and Mahogany 

filling up the many interstices between the logs in 
the hold. Naturally this led us into some queer 
places and not a few scrapes, but incidentally we 
were able to do some good service to the inhabitants 
by destroying many hundreds of embryo alligators. 
For wherever, in the course of our journeyings, we 
came across a swelling in the sand along the river 
bank, there we would delve, and we never failed of 
finding a deposit of ball-like stony-shelled eggs, which 
each contained a little devil of an alligator almost 
ready to begin his career of crime. Needless perhaps 
to say that none of those found by us in this manner 
ever did any harm. But while busy on one occasion 
destroying a clutch of these eggs, a huge specimen 
some sixteen feet long appeared from no one knew 
where, and actually succeeded in reaching with the 
horny tip of his tail, as it swept round, the legs 
of a West countryman, one of our finest seamen. 
Fortunately for him the bo'sun was carrying a loaded 
Snider rifle, and without stopping to think whether 
anybody else might be in the way he banged her 
^' aloose." The alligator w^as at the moment in a 
half circle, swinging himself round to reach the 
fallen man with his awful jaws wide spread and dis- 
playing all their jagged yellow fangs. The heavy 
bullet plunged right down that stinking throat and 
ploughed its way out through the creature's belly into 
the sand. With a writhe like a snake the monster 
recoiled upon himself, snapping his jaws horribly and 
loading the air with a faint, sickening smell of musk. 
After two or three twists and turns he managed to 
slip into the water, but not before the bo'sun had 


A Sack of Shakings 

fired twice more at him and missed him by yards. 
Poor Harry, the man knocked down, was so badly 
scared that he sat on a log end and vomited, looking 
livid as a corpse and shaking like a man of ninety. 
We could do nothing for him, but watched him 
sympathetically, hoping for his recovery, when sud- 
denly with a wild yell he sprang to his feet and 
began to tear his clothes off as if he were mad. 
Lord, how he did swear too ! We were all scared, 
thinking the fright had turned his brain, but when 
he presently danced before us in his bare buff, picking 
frantically at his skin, our dismay was changed into 
shrieks of laughter. A colony of red ants, each about 
half an inch long, had been concealed in that log. 
They had walked up his trouser legs quietly enough 
and fastened upon his body, their nippers meeting 
through the soft skin. Hence his endeavours to get 
disrobed in haste. He said it was nothing to laugh 
at, but I don't believe the man was yet born that 
could have seen him and not laughed. Happily it 
cured him of his fright. 

Whether by good luck or good management I don't 
presume to say, but in all our explorations we met 
with no accident either from snake or saurian, while 
the crew of a Norwegian brig lying close by us lost 
one of their number the second day after their 
arrival. They had been very short of water, and 
in consequence sent a boat up the river to one of 
the creeks for a supply. Four hands went on this 
errand, and, tempted by the refreshing coolness of 
the water, one of them waded out into the river 
until the water was up to his waist, and stood there 


Alligators and Mahogany 

baling it up with the dipper he carried and pouring 
it over his head. The others were in the boat 
laughing at his antics, when suddenly, as they de- 
scribed it, a dark sickle-like shadow swept round 
him, and with one marrow-freezing shriek he fell. 
All the signs of a fearful struggle beneath the water 
were evident, but never again did they see their 
shipmate, nor was it until some time afterwards that 
they learned what the manner of his going really was. 
And when they did find out, nothing would tempt 
any of them to leave the ship again while she lay 
there. One of them told me that his shipmate's last 
cry would be with him, reverberating through his 
mind, until his dying day. I am not naturally cruel, 
but I confess that when one day I caught one of 
these monsters with a hook and line while iishins 
for something else, I felt a real pleasure in taking 
the awful thing alongside, hoisting it on board, and 
ripping it lengthways from end to end. From its 
stomach we took quite a bushel basket-full of eggs, 
nearly all of them with shells, ready for laying, and 
we felt truly thankful that so vile a brood had been 
caught before they had begun their life of evil. 




At first sight, any two things more difficult to bring 
into intimate relations than bucolic and nautical life 
would appear impossible to find. Those unfortunate 
people who, having followed the calm, well-ordered 
round of pastoral progress through the steadily-suc- 
ceeding seasons of many years, suddenly find them- 
selves, by some freakish twist of fortune's wheel, 
transferred to the unstable bosom of the mutable 
deep, become terribly conscious of their helpless- 
ness in the face of conditions so utterly at variance 
with all their previous experience of settled, orderly 
life. The old order has changed with a vengeance, 
giving place to a bewildering seasonal disarrange- 
ment which seems to their shaken senses like a 
foretaste of some topsy-turvy world. Like sorrow- 
ful strangers in a strange land are they, wherein 
there is no sure foothold, and where, in place of 
the old familiar landmarks known and cherished so 
long, is a new element constant to nothing but 
change and — upon which they seem to be precari- 
ously poised — the centre of a marginless circle of 
invariable variability. This subversion of all precedent 
is of course no less disconcerting to the humbler 
denizens of the farmyard and meadow than it is to 

I lO 

Country Life on Board Ship 

those who are ordinarily the august arbiters of their 
destinies. And a sudden change from the placid 
environment of the homestead, with all its large liberty 
and peaceful delights, to the cramped, comfortless 
quarters which, as a rule, are all that shipboard 
arrangements allow them, at once brings them to a 
state of disconsolate wretchedness wherein all their 
self-assertive individuality is reduced to a meek, voice- 
less protest against their hard and unmerited fate. 
Sea -sickness, too, that truly democratic leveller, 
does not spare animals, but inserts another set of 
totally new and unpleasant sensations into the 
already complicated disorganisation of their unfor- 
tunate position. 

In spite of these admittedly difficult factors, I have 
the temerity to attempt the setting forth of certain 
phases of nautical life experienced by myself which 
have always appeared to me to bring into close contact 
two such widely differing spheres of existence as 
country life and sea life, principally in the manage- 
ment of farmyard animals at sea. Sailors are pro- 
verbially handy at most things, if their methods are 
unconventional, and I venture to hope that country 
readers will at least be amused by Jack's antics when 
dealing with the familiar creatures of the country- 

With that wonderful adaptability to circumstances 
which, while pre-eminently characteristic of mankind, 
is also a notable quality of domesticated animals, they 
soon recover from their stupor and malaise, arrange 
their locomotive powers to suit the mutations of their 
unsteady home, and learn (perhaps soonest of all) to 


A Sack of Shakings 

distinguish the very number of strokes upon the ship's 
bell which announces the arrival of feeding-time. No 
doubt the attentions of the sailors have much to do 
with the rapidity of acclimatisation (if the term may 
be so employed) manifested by most of the animals, 
since sailors have justly earned a high reputation for 
taming and educating creatures of even the most 
ferocious and intractable dispositions. Nevertheless, 
this result is attained by some of the queerest and 
most ludicrous means (to a countryman) imaginable. 
But what does that matter, since the conditions of 
their existence then become, for the seaworthy animals, 
not only pleasant but undoubtedly profitable to their 
owners. And where they are presently allowed the 
run of the ship much fun ensues, fun, moreover, that 
has no parallel in country life as ordinarily under- 
stood. Perhaps my experiences have been more 
favourably enlarged than falls to the lot of most sea- 
farers, for I have been in several ships where the 
live-stock were allowed free warren ; and although 
the system had many inconveniences and entailed a 
great deal of extra labour upon the crew, there were 
also many compensations. But, like all things per- 
taining to the sea, the practice of carrying live-stock 
has been replaced by more modern methods. The 
custom of carrying fresh meat in refrigerators is 
rapidly gaining ground, and, in consequence, latter- 
day seamen find fewer and few^er opportunities for 
educating in seafaring behaviour the usual farmyard 
animals that supply us with food. By few seamen 
will this be regarded as a misfortune, since they find 
their labour quite sufficiently onerous without the 

I 12 

Country Life on Board Ship 

inevitable and disagreeable concomitants of carrying 

By far the largest portion of my experience of farm- 
yard operations on board ship has been connected 
with pigs. These profitable animals have always 
been noted for their adaptability to sea life, and I fully 
believe, what I have often heard asserted, that no 
pork is so delicious as that which has been reared on 
board ship. Be that as it may, pigs of every nation 
under heaven where sw^ine are to be found have been 
shipmates with me, and a complete study of all their 
varied characteristics and their behaviour under all 
sea circumstances would occupy a far greater number 
of pages than I am ever likely to be able or willing 
to give. Already I have endeavoured to set forth, 
in a former article, a sketch of the brilliant, if erratic, 
career of one piggy shipmate whose life was full of 
interest and his death a blaze of lurid glory. But 
he was in nowise the most important member of 
our large and assorted collection of grunters in that 
ship. Our Scotch skipper was an enthusiastic farmer 
during the brief periods he spent at Cellardyke be- 
tween his voyages to the East Indies, and conse- 
quently it was not strange that he should devote a 
portion of his ample leisure to pig-breeding when at 
sea. For some reason, probably economical, we 
carried no fowls or other animals destined for our 
meat, with the exception of the pigs, two large 
retriever dogs and two cats making up the total of 
our animal passengers, unless a large and active 
colony of rats that inhabited the recesses of the hold 
be taken into account. The day before sailing from 

113 H 

A Sack of Shakings 

Liverpool a handsome young pair of porkers, boar 
and sow, were borne on board in one sack by the 
seller, making the welkin ring with their shrill pro- 
tests. We already possessed a middle-aged black 
sow of Madras origin, whose temper was perfectly 
savage and unappeasable ; in fact, she was the only 
animal I ever saw on board ship that could not be 
tamed. The first few days of our passage being 
stormy, the two young pigs suffered greatly from 
sea-sickness, and in their helpless, enfeebled state 
endured many things from the wrathful, long-snouted 
old Madrassee, who seemed to regard them both with 
peculiar aversion. She ate all their grub as well as 
her own, although, Hke the lean kine of Scripture, 
she was nothing benefited thereby. But the sailors, 
finding the youngsters amicably disposed, began to pet 
them, and in all possible ways to protect them from 
ill-usage not only by the savage Indian but by the 
black retriever Sailor, who had taken up his quarters 
in the fo'c's'le and became furiously jealous of any 
attention shown to the pigs by his many masters. 
It should be noted that, contrary to the usual practice, 
those pigs had no settled abiding-place. At night 
they slept in some darksome corner beneath the 
top-gallant forecastle, wherever they could find a dry 
spot, but by day they roamed the deck whithersoever 
they listed, often getting as far aft as the sacred 
precincts of the quarter-deck, until Neptune, the 
brown retriever that guarded the after-end of the 
ship, espied them, and, leaping upon them, towed 
them forrard at full gallop by the ears, amid a hurly- 
burly of eldritch shrieks and rattling hoofs. I am 


Country Life on Board Ship 

not at all sure that the frolicsome young things did 
not enjoy these squally interludes in their otherwise 
peaceful lives. Certainly they often seemed to court 
rather than to avoid the dog's onslaught, and would 
dodge him round the after-hatch for all the world 
like London Arabs guying a policeman. The only 
bitter drop in their brimming cup of delights came 
with distressing regularity each morning. As soon 
as the wash-deck tub was hauled forrard and the 
fore part of the ship was invaded by the bare- 
footed scrubbers and water-slingers, two hands would 
grope beneath the fo'c's'le, where, squeezed into the 
smallest imaginable space, Denis and Jenny were, 
or pretended to be, sleeping the dreamless slumbers 
of youthful innocence. Ruthlessly they were seized 
and hauled on deck, their frantic lamentations lacer- 
ating the bright air, and evoking fragments of the 
commination service from the disturbed watch below. 
While one man held each of them down, others 
scrubbed them vigorously, pouring a whole flood of 
sparkling brine over them meanwhile, until they were 
as rosy and sweet as any cherub of the nursery after 
its bath. This treatment, so mournfully and regularly 
resented by them, was doubtless one reason why they 
throve so amazingly, although the liberal rations of 
sea-biscuit and peasoup supplied to them probably 
suited them as well as any highly-advertised and 
costly provender would have done. Their tameness 
was wonderful and withal somewhat embarrassing, 
for it was no uncommon thing for them to slip into 
the men's house unseen during the absence of the 
crew, and, climbing into a lower bunk, nestle cosily 


A Sack of Shakings 

down into the unfortunate owner's blankets and snore 
peacefully until forcibly ejected by the wrathful 

Our passage was long, very long, so that the old 
black sow littered off the Cape of Good Hope, 
choosing, with her usual saturnine perversity, a night 
when a howling gale was blowing, and destroying 
all her hapless offspring but one in her furious 
resentment at the whole thing. Jenny, like the 
amiable creature she always was, delayed her offering 
until we were lying peaceably in Bombay Harbour. 
There she placidly produced thirteen chubby little 
sucklings and reared every one of them. They were 
a never-failing source of amusement to the men, 
who, in the dog-watches, would sit for hours with 
pipes aglow sedately enjoying the screamingly-funny 
antics of the merry band. There is much controversy 
as to which of all tame animals are the most 
genuinely frolicsome in their youth, kittens, lambs, 
calves, pups, and colts all having their adherents ; 
but I unhesitatingly give my vote for piglings, 
especially when they are systematically petted and 
encouraged in all their antics as were that happy 
family of ours. Generally, the fat and lazy parents 
passed the time of these evening gambols in poking 
about among the men, begging for stray midshipmen's 
nuts (broken biscuit), or asking in well-understood 
pig-talk to be scratched behind their ears or along 
their bristly spines, but occasionally, as if unable to 
restrain themselves any longer, they would suddenly 
join their gyrating family, their elephantine gambols 
among the frisky youngsters causing roars of laughter. 


Country Life on Board Ship 

Usually they wound up the revels by a grand galop 
furieux aft of the whole troop squealing and grunting 
fortissimo, and returning accompanied by the two 
dogs in a hideous uproar of barks, growls, and 

Our stay on the coast was sufficiently prolonged 
to admit of another litter being produced in Bimlia- 
patam, twelve more piglets being added to our already 
sizeable herd of seventeen. So far, these farming 
matters had met with the unqualified approval of all 
hands except the unfortunate boys who had to do the 
scavenging, but upon quitting the Coromandel coast 
for the homeward passage, the exceeding cheapness 
of live-stock tempted our prudent skipper to invest in 
a large number of fowls and ducks. Besides these, he 
bought a couple of milch goats, with some wild idea 
of milking them, while various members of the crew 
had gotten monkeys, musk-deer, and parrots. It 
needed no special gift of prescience to foresee serious 
trouble presently, for there was not a single coop or 
house of any kind on board for any of the motley 
crowd. As each crate of cackling birds was lowered 
on deck it was turned out, and by the time the last of 
the new-comers were free, never did a ship's decks look 
more like a '^ barton " than ours. Forty or fifty cock- 
fights were proceeding in as many corners, aided and 
abetted, I grieve to say, by the sailors, who did all they 
could to encourage the pugnacity of the fowls, although 
they were already as quarrelsome a lot as you would 
easily get together. The goats were right at home at 
once ; in fact goats are, I believe, the single exception 
to the general rule of the discomfort of animals 


A Sack of Shakings 

when first they are brought on shipboard. The new- 
comers quietly browsed around, sampling everything 
they could get a purchase on with their teeth, and 
apparently finding all good alike. Especially did they 
favour the ends of the running gear. Now if there is 
one thing more than another that is sharply looked 
after at sea, it is the ^* whipping " or securing of ropes- 
ends to prevent them fraying out. But it was suddenly 
discovered that our ropes-ends needed continvial atten- 
tion, some of them being always found with disreput- 
able tassels hanging to them. And when the mates 
realised that the goats apparently preferred a bit of 
tarry rope before anything else, their wrath was too 
great for words, and they meditated a terrible revenge. 
Another peculiarity of these strange-eyed animals was 
that they liked tobacco, and would eat a great deal of 
it, especially in the form of used-up quids. This 
peculiar taste in feeding had unexpected results. As 
before said, the raison d'etre of the goats was milk, and 
after sundry ineffectual struggles the steward managed 
to extract a capful from the unworthy pair. It was 
placed upon the cabin table with an air of triumph, 
and the eyes of the captain's wife positively beamed 
when she saw it. Solemnly it was handed round, and 
poured into the coffee as if it had been a libation to a 
tutelary deity, but somebody soon raised a complaint 
that the coffee was not up to concert pitch by a con- 
siderable majority. A process of exhaustive reasoning 
led to the milk being tasted by the captain, who im- 
mediately spat it out with much violence, ejaculating, 
''Why, the dam' stuff's pwushioned!" The steward, 
all pale and agitated, looked on dumbly, until in answer 



Country Life on Board Ship 

to the old man's furious questions he falteringly denied 
all knowledge of any felonious addition to the milk. 
The storm that was raised by the affair was a serious 
one, and for a while things looked really awkward for 
the steward. Fortunately the mate had the common- 
sense to suggest that the malignant goat should be 
tapped once more, and the immediate result tasted. 
This w^as done, and the poor steward triumphantly 
vindicated. Then it was unanimously admitted that 
tarry hemp, painted canvas, and plug tobacco were 
not calculated to produce milk of a flavour that would 
be fancied by ordinary people. 


For the first time that voyage an attempt was made 
to confine a portion of our farm-stock within a pen, 
instead of allowing them to roam at their own sweet 
will about the decks. For the skipper still cherished 
the idea that milk for tea and coftee might be 
obtained from the two goats that would be palatable, 
if only their habit of promiscuous grazing could be 
stopped. So the carpenter rigged up a tiny corral 
beneath the fo'c's'le deck, and there, in penitential 
gloom, the goats were confined and fed, like all the 
rest of the animals, on last voyage's biscuit and 
weevily pease. Under these depressing conditions 
there was, of course, only one thing left for self- 
respecting goats to do — refuse to secrete any more 
milk. They promptly did so ; so promptly, in fact, 
that on the second morning the utmost energies of 



A Sack of Shakings 

the steward only sufficed to squeeze out from the 
sardonic pair about half-a-dozen teaspoonfuls of 
doubtful-looking fluid. This sealed their fate, for 
we had far too much stock on board to waste any 
portion of our provender upon non-producers, and 
the fiat went forth — the drones must die. Some 
suggestion was made by a member of the after guard 
as to the possibility of the crew not objecting to 
goat as a change of diet; but with all the skipper's 
boldness, he did not venture to make the attempt. 
The goats were slain, their hides were saved for 
chafing gear, sheaths for knives, &c., but, with the 
exception of a portion that was boiled down with 
much disgust by the cook and given to the fowls, 
most of the flesh was fiung overboard. Then general 
complaints arose that while musk was a pleasant per- 
fume taken in moderation, a little of it went a very 
long way, and that two musk deer might be relied 
upon to provide as much scent in one day as would 
suffice all hands for a year. I do not know how it 
was done, but two days after the demise of the goats 
the deer also vanished. Still we could not be said 
to enjoy much room to move about on deck yet. 
We had 200 fowls and forty ducks roaming at large, 
and although many of the former idiotic birds tried 
their wings, with the result of finding the outside of 
the ship a brief and uncertain abiding-place, the 
state of the ship's decks was still utterly abominable. 
A week of uninterrupted fine weather under the 
blazing sun of the Bay of Bengal had made every 
one but the skipper heartily sick of sea-farming, and 
consequently it was with many pleasurable antici- 


Country Life on Board Ship 

pations that we noted the first increase in the wind 
that necessitated a reduction of sail. It made the 
fellows quite gay to think of the clearance that would 
presently take place. The breeze freshened steadily 
all night, and in the morning it was blowing a 
moderate gale, with an ugly cross sea, which, with 
the Belle s well-known clumsiness, she was allowing 
to break aboard in all directions. By four bells there 
were many gaps in our company of fowls. Such a 
state of affairs robbed them of the tiny modicum of 
gumption they had ever possessed, and every little 
breaking sea that lolloped inboard drove some of 
them, with strident outcry, to seek refuge overboard. 
Presently came what we had been expecting all the 
morning — one huge mass of water extending from 
the break of the poop to the forecastle, which filled 
the decks rail high, fore and aft. Proceedings were 
exceedingly animated for a time. The ducks took 
very kindly to the new arrangement at first, sailing 
joyously about, and tasting the bitter brine as if 
they rather liked the flavour. But they were vastly 
puzzled by the incomprehensible motions of the 
whole mass of water under them ; it was a pheno- 
menon transcending all their previous aquatic experi- 
ences. The fowls gave the whole thing up, floating 
languidly about like worn-out feather brooms upon 
the seething flood of water, and hardly retaining 
enough energy to struggle when the men, splashing 
about like a crack team in a water-polo match, 
snatched at them and conveyed them in heaps to a 
place of security under the forecastle. That day's 
breeze got rid of quite two-thirds of our feathered 


A Sack of Shakings 

friends for us, what with the number that had flown 
or been washed overboard and those unfortunates 
who had died in wet heaps under the forecastle. 
The old man was much annoyed, and could by no 
means understand the unwonted cheerfulness of 
everybody else. But, economical to the last, he 
ordered the steward to slay as many of the survivors 
each day as would give every man one body apiece 
for dinner, in lieu of the usual rations of salt beef 
or pork. This royal command gave all hands great 
satisfaction, for it is a superstition on board ship 
that to feed upon chicken is the height of epicurean 
luxury. Dinner-time, therefore, was awaited with 
considerable impatience ; in fact, a good deal of 
sleep was lost by the watch below over the prospect 
of such an unusual luxury. I w^ent to the galley as 
usual, my mouth watering like the rest, but when I 
saw the dirty little Maltese cook harpooning the 
carcasses out of the coppers, my appetite began to 
fail me. He carefully counted into my kid one 
corpse to each man, and I silently bore them into 
the forecastle to the midst of the gaping crowd. Ah 
me ! how was their joy turned into sorrow, their 
sorrow into rage, by the rapidest of transitions. She 
was a hungry ship at the best of times, but when 
things had been at their worst they had never quite 
reached the present sad level. It is hardly possible 
to imagine what that feast looked like. An East 
Indian jungle fowl is by no means a fleshy bird 
when at its best, but these poor wretches had been 
living upon what little flesh they wore when they 
came on board for about ten days, the scanty ration 


Country Life on Board Ship 

of paddy and broken biscuit having been insufficient 
to keep them alive. And then they had been scalded 
wholesale, the feathers roughly wiped off them, and 
plunged into a copper of furiously bubbling sea- 
water, where they had remained until the wooden- 
headed Maltese judged it time to fish them out and 
send them to be eaten. They were just like ladies' 
bustles covered with old parchment, and I have 
serious doubts whether more than half of them were 
drawn. I dare not attempt to reproduce the com- 
ments of my starving shipmates, unless I gave a row 
of dashes which would be suggestive but not en- 
lightening. Old Nat the Yankee, who was the doyen 
of the forecastle, was the first to recover sufficiently 
from the shock to formulate a definite plan of action. 
^' In my 'pinion," he said, ''thishyer's 'bout reached 
th' bottom notch. I kin stan' bein' starved ; in these 
yer limejuicers a feller's got ter stan' that, but I be 
'tarnally dod-gasted ef I kin see bein' starved 'n' in- 
sulted at the same time by the notion ov bein' bloated 
with lugsury. I'm goin' ter take thishyer kid full o' 
bramley-kites aft an' ask th' ole man ef he don't 
think it's 'bout time somethin' wuz said an' done by 
th' croo ov this hooker." There was no dissentient 
voice heard, and solemnly as a funeral procession, 
Nat leading the way with the corpuses delicti, the 
whole watch tramped aft. I need not dwell upon 
the interview. Sufficient that there was a good deal 
of animated conversation, and much jeering on the 
skipper's part at the well-known cussedness of sailors, 
who, as everybody knows (or think they know), will 
growl if fed on all the delicacies of the season served 


A Sack of Shakings 

up on i8-carat plate. But we got no more poultry, 
thank Heaven. And I do not think the officers 
regretted the fact that before we got clear of the 
bay the last of that sad crowd of feathered bipeds 
had ceased to worry any of us, but had wisely given 
up the attempt to struggle against such a combina- 
tion of trying circumstances. 

The herd of swine, however, throve apace. To 
the manner born, nothing came amiss to them, and 
I believe they even enjoyed the many quaint tricks 
played upon them by the monkeys, and the ceaseless 
antagonism of the dogs. But the father of the family 
was a sore trial to our energetic carpenter. Chips 
had a sneaking regard for pigs, and knew more than 
anybody on board about them ; but that big boar, 
he said, made him commit more sin with his tongue 
in one day than all the other trying details of his 
life put together. For Denis's tusks grew amazingly, 
and his chief amusement consisted in rooting about 
until he found a splinter in the decks underneath 
which he could insert a tusk. Then he would lie 
down or crouch on his knees, and fidget away at 
that sliver of pine until he had succeeded in ripping 
a long streak up ; and if left undisturbed for a few 
minutes, he would gouge quite a large hollow out 
of the deck. No ship's decks that ever I saw were 
so full of patches as ours were, and despite all our 
watchfulness they were continually increasing. It 
became a regular part of the carpenter's duties to 
capture Denis periodically by lassoing him, lash him 
up to the pin-rail by his snout, and with a huge 
pair of pincers snap off those fast-growing tusks as 


Country Life on Board Ship 

close down to the jaw as possible. In spite of this 
heroic treatment, Denis always seemed to find enough 
of tusk left to rip up a sliver of deck if ever he could 
find a quiet corner ; and the carpenter was often 
heard to declare that the cunning beast was a lineal 
descendant of a survivor of the demon-possessed 
herd of Gadara. 

In the case of the pigs, though, there were com- 
pensations. By the time we arrived off Mauritius, 
a rumour went round that on Friday a pig was to 
be killed, and great was the excitement. The steward 
swelled with importance as, armed with the cabin 
carving-knife, he strode forward and selected two 
of the first litter of piglets, the Bombay born, for 
sacrifice. He had plenty of voluntary helpers from 
the watch below, who had no fears for the quality 
of this meat, and only trembled at the thought that 
perchance the old man might bear malice in the 
matter of the fowls and refuse to send any pork in 
our direction. Great was the uproar as the chosen 
ones were seized by violent hands, their legs tied with 
spun-yarn, and their throats exposed to the stern 
purpose of the steward. Unaware that the critical 
eye of Chips was upon him, he made a huge gash 
across the victim's throat, and then plunged the knife 
in diagonally until the whole length of the blade dis- 
appeared. ''Man ahve," said Chips, ''ye're sewerly 
daft. Thon's nay wye to stick a pig. If ye haena 
shouldert the puir beastie A'am a hog mysel'." ''You 
mind your own business, Carpenter," replied the 
steward, with dignity ; " I don't want anybody to 
show me how to do viy work." "Gie vie nane o' 


A Sack of Shakings 

yer impidence, ye feckless loon," shouted Chips. 
''A'am tellin' ye thon's spilin' guide meat for want 
o' juist a wee bit o' knowin' how. Hae ! lat me 
show ye if ye're thick heid's able to tak' onythin' in 
ava." And so speaking, he brushed the indignant 
steward aside, at the same time drawing his pocket- 
knife. The second pig was laid out, and Chips, as 
delicately as if performing tracheotomy, slit his 
weasand. The black puddings were not forgotten, 
but I got such a distaste for that particular delicacy 
from learning how they were made (I hadn't the 
slightest idea before) that I have never been able to 
touch one since. 

Chips now took upon himself the whole direction 
of affairs, and truly he was a past-master in the art 
and mystery of the pork-butcher. He knew just the 
temperature of the water, the happy medium between 
scalding the hair on and not scalding it off ; knew, 
too, how to manipulate chitterlings and truss the 
carcass up till it looked just as if hanging in a first- 
class pork shop. But the steward was sore dis- 
pleased. For it is a prime canon of sea etiquette 
not to interfere with another man's work, and in the 
known incapacity of the cook, whose duty the pig- 
killing should ordinarily have been, the steward came 
next by prescriptive right. However, Chips, having 
undertaken the job, was not the man to give it up 
until it was finished, and by universal consent he 
had a' right to be proud of his handiwork. That 
Sunday's dinner was a landmark, a date to reckon 
from, although the smell from the galley at supper- 
time on Saturday and breakfast-time on Sunday made 


Country Life on Board Ship 

us all quite faint and weak from desire, as well as 
fiercely resentful of the chaffy biscuit and filthy 
fragments of beef that were a miserable substitute 
for a meal with us. 

But thenceforward the joy of good living was ours 
every Sunday until we reached home. Ten golden 
epochs, to be looked forward to with feverish longing 
over the six hungry days between each. And when 
off the Western Islands, Chips tackled the wicked 
old Madrassee sow single-handed, in the pride of his 
prowess allowing no one to help him although she 
was nearly as large as himself — ah ! that was the 
culminating point. Such a feast was never known 
to any of us before, for in spite of her age she was 
succulent and sapid, and, as the Irish say, there was 
'Mashins and lavins." When we arrived in the East 
India Docks, we still had, besides the two progenitors 
of our stock, eight fine young porkers, such a 
company as would have been considered a most 
liberal allowance on leaving home for any ship I 
have ever sailed in before or since. As for Denis 
and Jenny, I am afraid to estimate their giant pro- 
portions. They were not grossly fat, but enormously 
large — quite the largest pigs I have ever seen — and 
when they were lifted ashore by the hydraulic crane, 
and landed in the railway truck for conveyance 
to Cellardyke, to taste the joys of country life 
on Captain Smith's farm, there was a rush of 
spectators from all parts of the dock to gaze open- 
mouthed upon these splendid specimens of ship- 
bred swine. But few could be got to believe 
that, eleven months before, the pair of them had 


A Sack of Shakings 

been carried on board in one sack by an under- 
sized man, and that their sole sustenance had been 
^'hard-tack" and pea-soup. 


Such an extensive collection of farm-stock as we 
carried in the Belle was, like the method of dealing 
with it, probably unique. Certainly so in my ex- 
perience, and in that of all the shipmates with whom 
I have ever discussed the matter. For this reason, a 
dirty ship upon the high seas is an anomaly, something 
not to be imagined ; that is, in the sense of loose 
dirt, of course, because sailors will call a ship dirty 
whose paint and varnish have been scrubbed or 
weathered off, and, through poverty or meanness, 
left unrenewed. The Belle would no doubt have 
looked clean to the average landsman, but to a sailor 
she was offensively filthy, and the language used at 
night when handling the running gear {i.e. the ropes 
which regulate the sails, &c., aloft, and are, when dis- 
used, coiled on pins or on deck) was very wicked 
and plentiful. In fact, as Old Nat remarked casually 
one Sunday afternoon, when the watch had been 
roused to tack ship, and all the inhabitants of the 
farmery, disturbed from their roosting places or 
lairs, were unmusically seeking fresh quarters, ^' Ef 

thishyer old mud-scow's out much longer we 

sh'U hev' 'nother cargo aboard when we du arrive. 
People '11 think we cum fr'm the Chinchees with 



Country Life on Board Ship 

But, as I have said, the Belle was certainly an excep- 
tion. I joined a magnificent steel clipper called the 
Harbinger in Adelaide as second mate, and, on taking 
mv first walk round her, discovered that she too was 
well provided in the matter of farm-stock, besides, to 
my amazement, for I had thought the day for such 
things long past, carrying a cow. But all the arrange- 
ments for the housing, feeding, and general comfort of 
the live-stock on board w^ere on a most elaborate scale, 
as, indeed, was the ship's equipment generally. The 
cow-house, for instance, was a massive erection of 
solid teak with brass fittings and fastenings, large 
enough to take two cows comfortably, and varnished 
outside till it looked like a huge cabinet. Its place 
when at sea was on the main hatch, where it was 
nearly two feet oi¥ the deck, and by means of ring- 
bolts was lashed so firmly that only a perfectly dis- 
astrous sea breaking on board could possibly move 
it. Its solidly-built doors ppened in halves, of which 
the lower half only was kept fastened by day, so that 
Foley stood at her window gazing meditatively out at 
the blue expanse of the sea with a mild, abstracted air, 
which immediately vanished if any one inadvertently 
came too near her premises. She had a way of sud- 
denly dabbing her big soapy muzzle into the back of 
one's neck while the victim's attention was taken up 
elsewhere that was disconcerting. And one night, in 
the middle watch, she created a veritable sensation by 
walking into the forecastle unseen by anybody on 
deck. The watch below were all sound asleep, of 
course, but the unusual footsteps, and long niquisitive 
breaths, like escaping steam, emitted by the visitor, 

129 I 

A Sack of Shakings 

soon roused them by their unfamiHarity. Voice called 
unto voice across the darkness (and a ship's forecastle 
at night is a shade or so darker than a coal-cellar), 
"What is it ? Light the lamp, somebody" ; but with 
that vast mysterious monster floundering around, no 
one dared venture out of the present security of his 
bunk. It was really most alarming — waking up to 
such an invisible horror as that, and, as one of the 
fellows said to me afterwards, " All the creepy yarns 
I'd ever read in books come inter me head at once, 
until I was almost dotty with 'fraid." This situation 
was relieved by one of the other watch, who, coming 
in to get something out of a chum's chest, struck a 
match, and by its pale glimmer revealed the huge 
bulk of poor Foley, who, scared almost to drying up 
her milk, was endeavouring to bore her way through 
the bows in order to get out. The butcher was 
hurriedly roused from his quarters farther aft, and, 
muttering maledictions upon ships and all sailors, 
the sea and all cattle, slouched to the spot. His 
voice immediately reassured the wanderer, who 
turned round at its first angry words and deliber- 
ately marched out of the forecastle, leaving a lavish 
contribution in her wake as a memento of her 

Between the butcher and Foley a charming affec- 
tion existed. She loved him most fondly, and the 
Cardigan jacket he wore was a proof thereof. For 
while engaged in grooming her, which he did most 
conscientiously every morning, she would reach round 
whenever possible and lick him wherever she could 
touch him. In consequence of this affectionate habit 



Country Life on Board Ship 

of hers his Cardigan was an object of derision to all 
on board until upon our arrival in Cape Town one of 
our departing passengers divided a case of extra 
special Scotch whisky among the crew. The butcher 
being of an absorbent turn, shifted a goodly quantity 
of the seductive fluid, and presently, feeling very 
tired, left the revellers and disappeared. Next morn- 
ind he was nowhere to be found. A prolonged 
search was made, and at last the missing man was 
discovered peacefully slumbering by the side of 
the cow, all unconscious of the fact that she had 
licked away at him until nothing remained of his 
Cardigan but the sleeves, and in addition a great 
deal of his shirt was missing. It is only fair to 
suppose that, given time enough, she would have 
removed all his clothing. It was a depraved appetite 
certainly, but as I have before noticed, that is not 
uncommon among animals at sea. It was her only 
lapse, however, from virtue in that direction. Truly 
her opportunities were small, being such a close 
prisoner, but the marvel to me was how, in the ab- 
sence of what I should say was proper food, she kept 
up her supply of milk for practically the whole 
voyage. She never once set foot on shore from 
the time the vessel left London until she returned, 
and as green food was most difficult to obtain in 
Adelaide, she got a taste of it only about four times 
during our stay. Australian hay, too, is not what 
a dainty English cow would be likely to hanker after ; 
yet with all these drawbacks it was not until we had 
crossed the Line on the homeward passage that her 
milk began to dwindle seriously in amount. Thence- 

A Sack of Shakings 

forward it decreased, until in the Channel the butcher 
handed in to the steward one morning a contri- 
bution of about a gill, saying, *' If you want any 
more, sir, you'll have to put the suction hose on 
to her. I sh'd say her milkin' days was done." But 
for long previous to this the ingenious butcher had 
been raiding the cargo (of wheat) for his pet, 
and each day would present her with two bucketfuls 
of boiled w^heat, which she seemed to relish amaz- 
ingly. Partly because of this splendid feeding, and 
partly owing to the regular washing and groom- 
ings she received, I imagine she was such a picture 
of an animal w^hen she stepped out of the ship 
in London as I have only seen at cattle shows 
or on advertisement cards. You could not see a 
bone ; her sides were like a wall of meat, and her 
skin had a sheen on it like satin. As she was led 
away, I said to the butcher, who had been assisting 
at her debarkation, '* I suppose you'll have her 
again next voyage, won't you, butcher ? " ^* No 
fear," he answered sagely. '* She's gone to be 
butchered. She'll be prime beef in a day or two." 
I looked at him with something like consternation. 
He seemed to think it was a grand idea, although 
even now the mournful call of his old favourite 
was ringing in his ears. At last I said, '' I wonder 
you can bear to part with her ; you've been such 
chums all the voyage." " I don't know what you 
mean, sir," he replied. '' I looked after her 'cause 
it's my bisness, but I'd jest as leave slaughter her 
myself as not." With that he left me to resume 

his duty. 



Country Life on Board Ship 

But in the fervour of my recollections of Foley, 
I have quite neglected another most important branch 
of the Harbingers family of animals, the sheep. 
Being such a large ship, she had an immense house 
on deck between the main hatch and the fore 
mast, in which were a donkey-engine and con- 
denser, a second cabin to accommodate thirty pas- 
sengers, petty officers' quarters, carpenters' shop, 
and galley. And still there was room between 
the fore end and the fore mast to admit of two 
massive pens, built of teak, w^th galvanised bars 
in front, being secured there one on top of the 
other. When I joined the ship these were empty, 
and their interiors scrubbed as clean as a kitchen 
table. That morning, looking up the quay, I saw 
a curious procession. First a tall man, with an air 
of quiet want of interest about him ; by his side 
sedately marched a ram, a splendid fellow, who 
looked fully conscious that he was called upon 
to play an important part in the scheme of things. 
Behind this solemn pair came a small flock of some 
thirty sheep, and a wise old dog, keeping a good dis- 
tance astern of the mob, fittingly brought up the rear. 
They were expected, for I saw^ some of the men, 
under the bo'sun's directions, carefully laying a 
series of gangways for them. And, without noise, 
haste, or fuss, the man marched on board closely 
followed by the ram. He led the way to where 
a long plank was laid from the deck to the wide- 
open door of the upper pen. Then, stepping to 
the side of it, without a word or even a gesture, he 
stood quite still while the stately ram walked calmly 


A Sack of Shakings 

up that narrow way, followed by the sheep in single 
file. The leader walked into the pen and right 
round it, reaching the door just as the fifteenth 
sheep had entered. The others had been restrained 
from following as soon as fifteen had passed. Out- 
side he stepped upon the plank with the same grave 
air of importance, and the moment he had done so 
the door was slid to in the face of the others who 
were still following his lead. Then the other pen 
was filled in the same easy manner, the ram quit- 
ting the second pen with the bearing of one whose 
sublime height of perfection is far above such paltry 
considerations as praise or blame, while the dog 
stood aloof somewhat dejectedly, as if conscious 
that his shining abilities were for the time com- 
pletely overshadowed by the performances of a 
mere woolly thing, one of the creatures he had 
always regarded as being utterly destitute of a single 
gleam of reasonableness. The ram received a carrot 
from his master's pocket with a gracious air, as of one 
who confers a favour, and together the trio left 
the ship. The embarkation had been effected in 
the quietest, most humane manner possible, and to 
my mind was an object-lesson in ingenuity. 

We had no swine, but on top of this same house 
there was a fine range of teak-built coops of spacious 
capacity, and these were presently filled with quite 
a respectable company of fowls, ducks, and geese, 
all, of course, under the charge of the butcher. 
Happy are the animals who have no history on 
board ship, whose lives move steadily on in one 
well-fed procession unto their ordained end. Here 



Country Life on Board Ship 

in this grand ship, had it not been for the geese, no 
one would have realised the presence of poultry at 
all, so little were they in evidence until they graced 
the glittering table in the saloon at 6 P.M. But the 
geese, as if bent upon anticipating the fate that was 
in store for them, waited w4th sardonic humour until 
deepest silence fell upon the night-watches. Then, 
as if by preconcerted signal, they raised their un- 
melodious voices, awaking sleepers fore and aft from 
deepest slumbers, and evoking the fiercest maledic- 
tions upon their raucous throats. Occasionally the 
shadowy form of some member of the crew, exas- 
perated beyond endurance, would be dimly seen 
clambering up the end of the house, his heart filled 
with thoughts of vengeance. Armed with a wooden 
belaying - pin, he would poke and rattle among the 
noisy creatures, with much the same result as one 
finds who, having a slightly aching tooth, fiddles 
about with it until its anguish is really maddening. 
These angry men never succeeded in doing anything 
but augmenting the row tenfold, and they found 
their only solace in gloating over the last struggles 
of one of their enemies when the butcher was doing 
his part towards verifying the statement on the menu 
for the forthcoming dinner of ''roast goose." 

But the chief interest of our farmyard, after all, 
lay in the sheep. How it came about that such a 
wasteful thing was done I do not know, but it very 
soon became manifest that some at least of our sheep 
were in an interesting condition, and one morning, 
at wash - deck time, when I was prowling around 
forrard to see that everything was as it should be, I 


A Sack of Shakings 

was considerably amused to see one of the sheep 
occupying a corner of the pen with a fine young lamb 
by her side. While I watched the pretty creature, , 
the butcher came along to begin his day's work. 
When he caught sight of the new-comer he looked 
silly. It appeared that he alone had been sufficiently [ 
unobservant of his charges to be unprepared for this 
denouenienty and it was some time before his sluggish 
wits worked up to the occasion. Suddenly he roused 
himself and made for the pen. '' What are you going 
to do, butcher?" I asked. ''Coin' to do! W'y I'm 
agoin' ter chuck that there thing overboard, a'course, 
afore any of them haristocrats aft gets wind of it. 
They won't touch a bit o' the mutton if they hear 
tell o' this. I never see such a thing aboard ship 
afore." But he got no further with his fell intent, 
for some of the sailors intervened on behalf of 
the lamb, vowing all sorts of vengeance upon the 
butcher if he dared to touch a lock of its wool ; 
so he was obliged to beat a retreat, grumblingly, 
to await the chief steward's appearance and lay 
the case before him. When that gentleman ap- 
peared, he was by no means unwilling to add a 
little to his popularity by effecting a compromise. 
It was agreed that the sailors should keep the 
new-comer as a pet, but all subsequent arrivals 
were to be dealt with by the butcher instanter, 
without any interference on their part. This, the 
steward explained, was not only fair, but merciful, 
as in the absence of green food there could only 
be a day or two's milk forthcoming, and the poor 
little things would be starved. Of course, he couldn't 


Country Life on Board Ship 

spare any of Foley's precious yield for nursing lambs, 
besides wishing to avoid the natural repugnance the 
passengers would have to eating mutton in such a 
condition. So the matter was amicably arranged. 

Thereafter, whenever a lamb w^as dropped, and 
every one of those thirty ewes presented one or two, 
the butcher laid violent hands upon it, and dropped 
it overboard as soon as it w^as discovered. Owing to 
the promise of sundry tots of grog from the sailors, 
he always informed them of the fact, and pointed out 
the bereaved mother. Then she would be pounced 
upon, lifted out of the coop, and while one fellow 
held her another brought the favoured lamb. After 
the first time or two, that pampered young rascal 
needed no showing. As soon as he saw the sheep 
being held he would make a rush, and in a minute 
or two would completely drain her udder. Some- 
times there were as many as three at a time for 
him to operate upon, but there never seemed to 
be too many for his voracious appetite. What 
wonder that like Jeshurun he waxed fat and kicked. 
He grew apace, and he profited amazingly by the 
tuition of his many masters. Anything less sheep- 
like, much less lamb-like, than his behaviour could 
hardly be imagined. A regimental goat might have 
matched him in iniquity, but I am strongly inclined 
to doubt it. One of the most successful tricks taught 
this pampered animal was on the lines of his natural 
tendency to butt at anything and everything. It w^as 
a joyful experience to see him engaged in mimic 
conflict with a burly sailor, who, pitted against this 
immature ram, usually came to grief at an unex- 


A Sack of Shakings 

pected roll of the ship ; for Billy, as our lamb was 
named by general consent, very early in his career 
gat unto himself sea-legs of a stability unattainable 
by any two-legged creature. I often laughed myself 
sore at these encounters, the funniest exhibitions I 
had seen for many a long day, until one night in 
my watch on deck, during a gale of wind, I descended 
from the poop on to the main deck to hunt for a 
flying -fish that I heard come on board. I was 
stooping down, the water on deck over my ankles, 
to feel under the spare spars lashed alongside the 
scuppers, when I heard a slight noise behind me. 
Before I had time to straighten myself, a concus- 
sion like a well-aimed, hearty kick smote me behind, 
and I fell flat in the water like a plaice. When I 
had scrambled to my feet, black rage in my heart 
against things in general, I heard a fiendish cackle 
of laughter which was suddenly suppressed ; and 
there, with head lowered in readiness for another 
charge, stood Billy, only too anxious to renew his 
attentions as soon as he could see an opening. For 
one brief moment I contemplated a wild revenge, but 
I suddenly remembered that my place was on the 
poop, and I went that way, not perhaps with the 
dignified step of an officer, because that demoniacal 
sheep (no, lamb) w^as behind me manoeuvring for 
another assault. I lost all interest in him after that. 
A lamb is all very well, but when he grows up he 
is apt to become an unmitigated calamity, especially 
if sailors have any hand in his education. So that 
it was with a chastened regret that I heard the order 
go forth for his conversion into dinner. We were 


Country Life on Board Ship 

able to regale the pilot with roast lamb and mint 
sauce (made from the dried article), and the memory 
of my wrongs added quite a piquant flavour to my 


It has always been a matter of profound thankfulness 
with me that my evil genius never led me on board 
a cattle-boat. For I do think that to a man who has 
any feeling for the lower animals these vessels present 
scenes of suffering enough to turn his brain. And it 
does not in the least matter what provision is made 
for the safe conveyance of cattle in such numbers 
across the ocean. As long as the weather is fairly 
reasonable, the boxed-up animals have only to endure 
ten days or so of close confinement, with inability 
to lie down, and the nausea that attacks animals as 
well as human beings. The better the ship and the 
greater care bestowed upon the cattle-fittings the 
less will be the sufferings of the poor beasts ; but the 
irreducible minimum is soon reached, and that means 
much more cruelty to animals than any merciful man 
would like to witness. But when a gale is encoun- 
tered and the huge steamer wallows heavily in the 
mountainous irregularities of the Atlantic, flooding 
herself fore and aft at every roll, and making the 
cattlemen's task of attending to their miserable charges 
one surcharged w^ith peril to life or limbs, then the 
condition of a cattle-ship is such as to require the 
coinage of special adjectives for its description. Of 
course it will be said that human beings used to be 


A Sack of Shakings 

carried across the ocean for sale in much the same 
way, and men calling themselves humane were not 
ashamed to grow rich on the receipts from such 
traffic ; but surely that will never be advanced as an 
excuse for, or a palliative of, the horrors of the live 
cattle trade. I have passed through an area of sea 
bestrewn with the bodies of cattle that have been 
washed overboard in a gale — hurled out of the pens 
wherein they have been battered to death — when 
the return of fine weather has made it possible, and 
I have wished with all my heart that it could be 
made an offence against the laws to carry live cattle 
across the ocean at all. 

No, the nearest approach that ever I had to being 
shipmates with a cargo of live stock was on one 
never-to-be-forgotten occasion, when, after bringing 
a 24-ton schooner from a little village up the Bay 
of Fundy to Antigua in the West Indies, I found 
myself, as you may say, stranded in St. John, the 
principal port in that island. The dry rot which 
seems to have unfortunately overtaken our West 
Indian possessions was even then very marked in 
Antigua, for there was no vessel there larger than a 
100-ton schooner, and only two or three of them, 
all Yankees with one exception, a Barbadian craft 
with the queerest name imaginable, the Migumoo- 
weesoo. The shipping officer, seeing that I was a 
certificated mate, very kindly interested himself in 
me, going so far as to say that if I would take his 
advice and assistance I would immediately leave St. 
John in the Migum^ as he called her, for that the 
skipper, being a friend of his, would gladly give me 


Country Life on Board Ship 

a passage to Barbadoes. I hope good advice was 
never wasted on me. At any rate this wasn't, for I 
immediately went down to the beach, jumped into 
a boat, and ordered the darky in charge to put me 
on board the Miguni, When we got alongside I was 
mightily interested to see quite a little mob of horses 
calmly floating alongside with their heads just sticking 
out of the water. The first thing that suggested itself 
to me was that if those horses got on board with 
their full complement of legs it would be little less 
than a miracle, the harbour being notoriously infested 
with sharks. But presently I reflected that there was 
really no danger, the darkies who were busy with 
preparations for the embarkation of the poor beasts 
kicking up such a deafening row that no shark would 
have dared venture within a cable's length of the 
spot. Everybody engaged ni the business seemed 
to be excited beyond measure, sliouting, screeching 
with laughter, and yelling orders at the top of their 
voices, so that I could not see how anything was 
going to be done at all. The skipper was confined 
to his cabin with an attack of dysentery, and lay 
fretting himself into a fever at the riot going on 
overhead for want of his supervision. As soon as I 
introduced myself he begged me to go and take 
charge, but, although I humoured him to the extent 
of seeming to comply with his request, I knew 
enough of the insubordinate 'Badian darkies to make 
me very careful how I interfered with them. But 
going forward, I found to my delight that they had 
made a start at last, and that two of the trembling 
horses were already on deck. Four or five darkies 


A Sack of Shakings 

were in the water alongside, diving beneath the 
horses with slings which were very carefully placed 
round their bodies, then hooked to a tackle, by 
means of which they were hoisted on board, so 
subdued by fear that they suffered themselves to be 
pushed and hauled about the decks with the quiet 
submissiveness of sheep. There were twenty of 
them altogether, and when they had all been landed 
on deck there was not very much room left for 
working the schooner. However, as our passage lay 
through the heart of the trade winds, and nothing 
was less probable than bad weather, nobody minded 
that, not even when the remaining deck space was 
lumbered up with some very queer-looking forage. 

As soon as the horses were on board we weighed, 
and stood out of harbour with a gentle, leading wind 
that, freshening as we got farther off the land, coaxed 
the smart craft along at a fairly good rate. This 
lasted until midnight, when, to the darkies' dismay, 
the wind suddenly failed us, leaving us lazily rocking 
to the gently-gliding swell upon the wine-dark bosom 
of the glassy sea. Overhead, the sky, being moonless, 
was hardly distinguishable from the sea, and as every 
brilliant star was faithfully duplicated beneath, it 
needed no great stretch of imagination to fancy that 
we were suspended in the centre of a vast globe 
utterly cut off from the rest of the world. But the 
poor skipper, enfeebled by his sad ailment and 
anxious about his freight, had no transcendental 
fancies. Vainly I tried to comfort him with the 
assurance that we should certainly find a breeze at 
daybreak, and it would as certainly be fair for us. 


Country Life on Board Ship 

He refused consolation, insisting that we were in 
for a long spell of calm, and against his long ex- 
perience of those waters I felt I could not argue. 
So I ceased my efforts and went on deck to enjoy 
the solemn beauty of the night once more, and 
listen to the quaint gabble of the three darkies 
forming the watch on deck. 

Sure enough the skipper was right. Calms and 
baffling airs, persisting for three days, kept us almost 
motionless until every morsel of horse provender was 
eaten, and — what was still more serious — very little 
water was left. All of us wore long faces now, and 
the first return of steady w^ind was hailed by us 
with extravagant delight. Continuing on our original 
course was out of the question under the circum- 
stances, so w^e headed directly for the nearest port, 
which happened to be Prince Rupert, in the beautiful 
island of Dominica. A few hours' sail brought us into 
the picturesque harbour, with its ruined fortresses, 
once grimly guarding the entrance, now overgrown 
w^ith dense tropical vegetation, huge trees growing out 
of yawning gaps in the masonry, and cable-like vines 
enwreathing the crumbling walls. Within the harbour 
there was a profound silence ; the lake-like expanse 
w^as unburdened by a single vessel, and although the 
roofs of a few scattered houses could be seen em- 
bosomed among the verdure, there was no other sign 
of human occupation. We lowered the little boat 
hanging astern and hastened ashore. Hurrying to- 
ward the houses, we found ourselves in a wide street 
which from lack of traffic was all overgrown with 
weeds. Here we found a few listless negroes, none 


A Sack of Shakings 

of whom could speak a word of English, a barbarous 
French patois being their only medium of com- 
munication. But by signs we made them compre- 
hend our needs — fodder for the horses, and water. 
After some little palaver we found that for a few 
shillings we might go into the nearest thicket of 
neglected sugar-cane and cut down as many of the 
feathery blades that crowned the canes as we wanted, 
but none of those sleepy-looking darkies volunteered 
their assistance — they seemed to be utterly indepen- 
dent of work. Our energy amazed them, and I 
don't think I ever saw such utter contempt as 
was expressed by our lively crew — true 'Badians 
born — tow^ards those lotus-eating Dominicans. We 
had a heavy morning's work before us, but by 
dint of vigorous pushing we managed to collect a 
couple of boatloads of cane-tops, carry them on 
board, and return for two casks of water which 
we had left one of our number ashore to fill. 
Some deliberate fishermen were hauling a seine as 
we were about to depart, and we lingered awhile 
until they had finished their unusual industry, being 
rewarded by about a bushel of '^ bill-fish," a sort of 
garfish, but with the beak an extension of the 
lower jaw instead of the upper. I offered to buy 
a few of the fish, but the fishermen seemed mightily 
careless w^hether they sold any or not. After much 
expenditure of energy in sign language, I managed 
to purchase three dozen (about the size of herrings) 
for the equivalent of twopence, and, very well 
satisfied, pushed off for the schooner, leaving the 
fishermen standing on the beach contemplating their 


Country Life on Board Ship 

newly-acquired wealth, as if quite unable to decide 
what to do with it. 

It was worth all the labour we had expended to see 
the delight with which those patient horses munched 
the juicy green tops of the cane, and drank, plung- 
ing their muzzles deep into the buckets, of the clear 
water we had brought. And I felt quite pleased when, 
upon our arrival in Barbadoes two days after, I 
watched the twenty of them walk sedately up a broad 
gangway of planks on to the wharf, and indulge in 
a playful prance and shake when they found their 
hoofs firmly planted upon the unrocking earth once 

I hope I shall not be suspected of drawing a longue 
beau when I say that I was once in a big ship whose 
skipper was an ardent agriculturist. On my first 
visit to the poop I saw with much surprise a couple 
of cucumber frames lashed in secure positions, one 
on either side of the rail at the break of the poop. 
When I fancied myself unobserved, I lifted the top 
of one, and looked within, seeing that they contained 
a full allowance of rich black mould. And presently, 
peeping down the saloon skylight, I saw that care- 
fully arranged along its sides, on brackets, were many 
large pots of flowering plants, all in first-rate condi- 
tion and bloom. It was quite a novel experience for 
me, but withal a most pleasant one, for although it 
did appear somewhat strange and incongruous io find 
plant-life flourishing upon the sea, it gave more of a 
familiar domestic atmosphere to 'board-ship life than 
anything I have ever known ; much the same feeling 
that strikes one when looking upon the round sterns 

145 K 

A Sack of Shakings 

of the Dutch galHots, with their square windows 
embelHshed by snowy beribboned musUn curtains. 
When we got to sea, and well clear of the land, so 
that the skipper's undivided attention could be given 
to his beloved hobby, there were great develop- 
ments of it. For not content with growing lettuces, 
radishes, endive, and such '^ garden - sass," as the 
Yankees term it, in his cucumber frames, he enlarged 
his borders and tried experiments in raising all sorts 
of queer seeds of tropical fruits and vegetables. His 
garden took up so much room on the poop that the 
officers fretted a good deal at the circumscribed area 
of their domain, besides being considerably annoyed 
at having to cover up the frames, boxes, &c., when 
bad weather caused salt spray to break over them. 
But this was ungrateful of them, because there never 
was a skipper who interfered less with his officers, 
or a more peaceable, good-natured man. Nor was 
the frequent mess of salad that graced the table in 
the saloon to be despised. In that humid atmosphere 
and equable temperature everything grew apace ; so 
that for a couple of months at a time green crisp 
leaves were scarcely absent from the table for a day. 
Mustard and cress were, of course, his main crop, 
but lettuce, radishes, and spring onions did remark- 
ably w^ell. That was on the utilitarian side. On 
the experimental side he raised date-palms, coco- 
palms, banana-palms, mango trees, and orange trees, 
dwarfing them after a fashion he had learned in 
China, so that in the saloon he had quite a conserva- 
tory. But there were many others of which none 
of us knew the names. And all around in the sky- 


Country Life on Board Ship 

light, beneath the brackets whereon the pots of 
geranium, fuchsia, &c., stood, hung orchids collected 
by the skipper on previous voyages, and most care- 
fully tended, so that some lovely spikes of bloom 
were always to be seen. That saloon was a perfect 
bower of beauty, and although the ship herself was 
somewhat dwarfed by comparison with the magnifi- 
cent clippers we forgathered with in Calcutta, few 
vessels had so many visitors. Her fame spread far, 
and nearly every day the delighted skipper would be 
busy showing a string of wondering shorefolk over 
his pleasaunce. 

We went thence to Hong-Kong, and there, as if 
in emulation of the ''old man's" hobby for flowers, 
all hands went in for birds, mostly canaries, which 
can be obtained in China more cheaply, I believe, 
than in any part of the world. Sampans, loaded 
with cages so that nothing can be seen of the hull, 
and making the whole harbour melodious with the 
singing of their pretty freight, are always in evidence. 
For the equivalent of 3s., if the purchaser be smart 
of eye, he can always buy a fine cock canary in 
full song, although the wily Chinee never fails to 
attempt the substitution of a hen, no matter what 
price is paid. There arose a perfect mania on board 
of us for canaries, and when we departed for New 
Zealand there were at least 400 of the songsters on 
board. Truly for us the time of singing of birds had 
come. All day long that chorus went on, almost 
deafeningly, until we got used to it, for of course if 
one bird piped up after a short spell of quiet all hands 
joined in at the full pitch of their wonderful little 


A Sack of Shakings 

lungs ; so that, what with birds and flowers and good 
feeling, life on board the Lady Clare was as nearly 
idyllic as any seafaring I have ever heard of. 


It might readily be supposed that in such leisurely 
ships as the Southern-going whalers, calling, as they 
did, at so many out-of-the-way islands in the South 
Pacific, there would have been more inducement than 
usual to cultivate the bucolics, if only from sheer 
desire for something to break the long monotony of 
the voyage. And so, indeed, there was, but not to 
anything like the extent that I should have expected. 
On board the Cachalot we were handicapped consider- 
ably in this direction by reason of several of the 
ofBcers having an unconquerable dislike to fresh pork, 
which was the more remarkable because they never 
manifested the same aversion to the rancid, foul-smel- 
ling article supplied to us every other day out of the 
ship's salt-meat stores. Wh^cnce, by the by, is ship 
salt pork obtained ? Under what conditions do they 
rear the animals that produce those massy blocks of 
''scrunchy" fat, just tinged at one side with a pale 
pink substance that was once undoubtedly flesh, but 
when it reaches the sailor bears no resemblance to 
anything eatable ? And how does it acquire that 
peculiarly vile flavour all its own, which is unlike the 
taste of any other provision known to caterers ? I 
give it up ; I have long ago done so, in fact. Men do 
eat it, although I never could, except by chopping it 


Country Life on Board Ship 

up fine with broken biscuit and mixing it with pea- 
soup, so that I could swallow it without tasting it. 
But the only other creatures able to do so are pigs 
and sharks. Sailors have all kinds of theories respect- 
ing its origin, of which I am restricted to saying that 
they are nearly all unprintable. But I do wish most 
fervently that those who supply it for human food, 
both dealers and ship-owners, were, as their victims 
are, compelled to eat it three times a week or starve. 
Just for a month or two. Methinks it would do them 
much good. But this is a digression. 

Most of us had our suspicions that our officers' dis- 
like was not so much to fresh pork as to live pigs, and 
truly, with our limited deck space, the objection was 
most reasonable. Moreover, the South Sea Island pig 
is a questionable-looking beast at the best, not by any 
means tempting to look at, and of uncertain dietary. 
They affect startling colours, such as tortoise-shell and 
tabby, are woolly of coat, lengthy of snout, and almost 
as speedy as dogs. When fed, which is seldom, ripe 
cocoa-nut is given them, as it is to all live stock in the 
islands. But they make many a hearty meal of fish as 
they w^ander around the beaches and reef-borders, and 
this gives a flavour to their produce which is, to say 
the least of it, unexpected. But as if to make up for 
our lack of pigs we had the most elaborate fowlery 
fitted up that I ever was shipmates with. Its dimen- 
sions were about 8 ft. long, 6 ft. wide, and 5 ft. high. 
It was built of wood entirely, and exactly on the 
principle of an oblong canary-cage that is unenclosed 
on any side. Plenty of roosts and nests, plenty of 
pounded coral and cocoa-nut, and — as the result — 


A Sack of Shakings 

plenty of eggs. But such queer eggs. The yolk was 
hardly distinguishable from the white, and they had 
scarcely any taste at all. Occasionally we got a brood 
hatched, but for some reason I don't pretend to 
understand our fowls didn't *'go much on feathers," 
as the skipper said. Not to put too fine a point on it, 
they never missed an opportunity of plucking one 
another's feathers out and eating them with much 
relish. So that they all stalked about in native majesty 
unclad, doubtless rejoicing in the coolth, and occa- 
sionally scanning their own bodies solicitously for any 
sign of a sprouting feather, of which they themselves 
might have the first taste. This operated queerly 
among the young broods, who never got any chance 
of being fledged, and whose mothers were always 
fighting about them ; but I believe as much that they 
(the mothers) might eat all the feathers themselves as 
to protect them from any fancied danger. These 
naked birds certainly looked funny ; but the cook, 
who was an ingenious South Carolina negro, used to 
gaze at them earnestly and say, '' Foh de good Lawd, 
sah ; ef I aint agwine ter bring hout er plan ter raise 
chicken 'thout fedders altogedder. W'y, jess look at 
it. All de strenf dat goes ter fedders '11 go ter meat — 
an' aigs — kase dem chickens ez fatter den ever I see 
'bord ship befo' ; an den only tink ob ^de weary 
trubble save in pluckin' ob 'em. Golly, sah, et's a 
great skeem, 'n I'se right on de top ob it." And, 
really, there did seem to be something in it. 

Fowls were plentiful in Vau-Vau — fairly good ones, 
too ; but it was entirely a mystery to me how any 
individual property in them was at all possible. For 


Country Life on Board Ship 

no native had any enclosure for them, or seemed to 
take any care of them. They just ran wild in the 
jungly vegetation around the villages and roosted on 
the trees ; but as a result, I suppose, of the per- 
sistence through their many generations of their 
original fellowship w^ith mankind, they never strayed 
far away from the houses. Our friends brought 
them on board at our first arrival in such numbers 
that no man was without a pair of fowls, and in 
sore straits where to keep them. The difficulty 
v/as soon solved by the skipper, who said that in 
his opinion it would soon be inconvenient for the 
fore-mast hands to see any difference between their 
fowls and his. Yes, and it was even possible that 
having eaten their own fowls they might forget that 
trifling fact, and absent-mindedly mistake some of the 
skipper's poultry for their own. In order to prevent 
such mistakes he issued an edict that no more fowls 
were to be entertained by the crew or cooked for 
them by the '' Doctor." And although this was un- 
doubtedly the wisest solution of our puzzle, there 
was thereat great discontent for a time, until the 
ingenious Kanakas took to cooking the fow'ls for us 
ashore, and bringing them on board ready for eating. 
Being plentiful, as I said, poultry was cheap, the 
standard price being a fathom of calico of the value 
of 6d. for two, for ship's stock, while our private 
friends furnished them to us for nothing. And there 
are also in the South Pacific many small islands un- 
peopled upon which that most sensible and practical 
of navigators, James Cook, had left both fowls and 
pigs to breed at their own sweet will. These islets 

A Sack of Shakings 

have always many cocoa-nut trees, the fruit from 
which affords plentiful food for the pigs, who show 
great ingenuity in getting at the contents of the fallen 
nuts, while the fowls apparently find no difficulty in 
picking up a comfortable livelihood. By tacit agree- 
ment these lonely ocean store-houses of good food 
are allowed to remain undisturbed by both the 
natives of adjacent islands and passing ships, except 
in cases of necessity. We once broke this unwritten 
law, for although we had not long left Fiji, we landed 
upon one of these oases in the blue waste, and had 
a day's frolic there. It was a veritable paradise, 
although not more than three acres in area. Its 
only need seemed to be fresh water, for as it had 
grown to be an island by the deposit of sand upon 
the summit of a coral reef, there were of course no 
springs. And yet it was completely clothed with 
vegetation, the cocoa-palms especially growing right 
down to the edge of the sea, so that at high water 
the wavelets washed one side of their spreading roots 
quite bare. Being no botanist, I cannot describe the 
various kinds of plants that luxuriated there, having, 
I suppose, become accustomed to the privation of 
fresh water, as the fowls and pigs had also done. 
But I did notice that the undergrowth seemed to 
consist principally of spreading bushes, rising to a 
height of about 5 feet, and bearing, in the greatest 
abundance, those tiny crimson and green cones 
known to most people as bird's-eye chillies. We 
all had cause to remember this, for thrusting our 
way through these bushes under the burning rays of 
the sun, we got in some mysterious way some of 


Country Life on Board Ship 

their pungent juices upon our faces and arms. And 
the effect was much the same as the appHcation of 
a strong mustard plaster would have been. 

We did not commit any great depredations. The 
second mate shot (with a bomb-gun) a couple of pigs, 
and we managed to catch half-a-dozen fowls, but they 
were so wild and cunning here, that except at night 
it was by no means easy to lay hands upon them. As 
so often happened to us, we found our best catch 
upon the beach, where just after sunset we waylaid 
two splendid turtle that had just crawled ashore to 
deposit their eggs. The advantage of such a catch as 
this was in the fact that turtle may be kept alive on 
board ship for several weeks, if necessary, by putting 
them in a cask of sea-water, and though unfed, they 
do not seem to be perceptibly impoverished. We 
also collected a goodly store of fresh unripe cocoa- 
nuts, which are one of the most delicious and refresh- 
ing of all tropical fruits. I do not suppose it would 
be possible to bring them to England without their 
essential freshness being entirely dissipated, for in 
order to enjoy them thoroughly they should be eaten 
new from the tree. They would be a revelation to 
people whose acquaintance with cocoa-nut is limited 
+0 the fully ripe and desperately indigestible article 
beloved of the Bank Holiday caterer, and disposed of 
at the favourite game of ''three shies a penny." In 
that form no native of cocoa-nut-producing countries 
ever dreams of eating them. For they are really only 
fit for ''copra," the universal term applied throughout 
the tropics to cocoa-nut prepared for conversion into 
oil. When the nuts are fully ripe, a native will seat 


A Sack of Shakings 

himself by a heap of them, a small block of wood 
before him with a hollow in its centre, and an old axe 
in his hand. Placing a nut on the block, unhusked, 
of course, he splits it open by one blow of the axe 
and lays the two halves in the sun. By the time 
he has split open the last of the heap, he may begin 
at the first opened nuts and shake their contents 
into bags, for they will be dried sufficiently for the 
meat to fall readily from the shells. That is ''copra." 
But before the husk has hardened into fibre, even 
before the shells have become brittle, w^hen it is 
possible to slice off the top of the nut as easily as 
you w^ould that of a turnip, the contents almost 
wholly consist of a bland liquor, not cloyingly sweet, 
cool even under the most fervent blaze of the sun, 
and refreshing to the last degree. Around the sides 
of the immature shell there is, varying in thickness 
according to the age of the nut, a jelly-like deposit, 
almost tasteless, but wonderfully sustaining. I have 
heard it vaunted as a cure for all diseases of mal- 
nutrition, and I should really be inclined to believe 
that there was some basis for the claim. The juice 
or milk, if allowed to ferment, makes excellent 

A long spell of cruising without touching at any 
land having exhausted all our stock of fowls, to say 
nothing of fruit and vegetables, of which we had 
almost forgotten the taste, it was with no ordinary 
delight that we sighted the Kermadec group of islands 
right ahead one morning, and guessed, by the course 
remaining unaltered, that our skipper was inclined 
to have a close look at them, if not to land. As 



Country Life on Board Ship 

we drew nearer and nearer our hopes rose, until, 
at the welcome order to '' back the mainyard/' we 
were like a school full of youngsters about to break 
up. Few preparations were needed, for a whaler's 
crew are always ready to leave the ship at any hour 
of the day or night for an indefinite period. And 
in ten minutes from the time of giving the first 
orders, two boats were pulling in for the small semi- 
circular bay with general instructions to forage for 
anything eatable. A less promising place at first 
sight for a successful raid could hardly be imagined, 
for the whole island seemed composed of one stupen- 
dous mountain whose precipitous sides rose sheer 
from the sea excepting just before us. And even 
there the level land only appeared like a ledge jutting 
out from the mountain-side, and of very small extent. 
As we drew nearer, however, we saw that even to our 
well-accustomed vision the distance had proved de- 
ceitful, and that the threshold of the mountain was 
of far greater area than we had supposed, being, 
indeed, of sufficient extent to have afforded shelter 
and sustenance to quite a respectable village of 
colonists had any chosen to set up their homes in 
such a lonely spot. But to the instructed eye the 
steep beach, wholly composed of lava fragments, 
gave a sufficient reason why such a sheltered nook 
might be a far from secure abiding-place, even had 
not a steadfast stain of dusty cloud poised above 
the island in the midst of the clear blue sky added 
its witness to the volcanic conditions still ready to 
burst forth. But these considerations did not trouble 
us. With boisterous mirth we dodged the incoming 


A Sack of Shakings 

rollers, and, leaping out of the boats as their keels 
grated on the shore, we ran them rapidly up out 
of the reach of the eager surf, delighted with the 
drenching because of its coolness. Dividing into 
parties of three, we plunged gaily into the jungly 
undergrowth, chasing, as boys do butterflies, the 
brown birds, like overgrown partridges, that darted 
away before us in all directions. We succeeded in 
catching a few, finding them to be what we after- 
wards knew in New Zealand as '^ Maori hens," some- 
thing between a domestic fowl and a partridge, but 
a dismal failure in the eatable way, being tough and 
flavourless as any fowl that had died of old age. 
Of swine, the great object of our quest, w^e saw not 
a hoof-print ; in fact, we assured ourselves that what- 
ever number of these useful animals the family that 
once resided in this desolate spot had reared, they 
had left no descendants. It was a grievous disap- 
pointment, for it threw us back upon the goats, and 
goat as food is anathema to all sailors. But it was 
a fine day ; we had come out to kill something, and, 
as no other game appeared available, we started after 
the goats. It was a big contract. We were all bare- 
footed, and, although on board the ship we had 
grown accustomed to regard the soles of our feet 
as quite impervious to feeling as any leather, we 
soon found that shore travelling over lava and through 
the many tormenting plants of a tropical scrub was 
quite another pair of shoes. We did capture a couple 
of goats, one a patriarch of unguessable longevity 
with a beard as long as my arm, and the other a 
Nanny heavy with kid. These we safely conveyed 


Country Life on Board Ship 

on board with us at the close of the day. But tJie 
result of our day's foraging, overshadowing even the 
boat-load of magnificent fish we caught out in the 
Httle bay, was the discovery of a plant known in New 
Zealand as ''Maori cabbage." It looks something 
like a lettuce run to seed, and has a flavour like 
turnip-tops. I do not suppose any one on shore can 
realise what those vegetables meant to us, that is, the 
white portion of the crew. For it was well-nigh 
two years since we had tasted a bit of anything 
resembling cabbage, and our craving for green vege- 
tables and potatoes was really terrible. It is one of 
the most serious hardships the sailor has to endure, 
the more serious because quite avoidable. Potatoes 
and Swede turnips are not dear food, and, if taken 
up with plenty of mould adhering to them and left 
so, will keep for six months in all climates. They 
make all the difference between a good and a bad 
ship. I am sure no banquet that I have ever sat 
down to since could possibly have given me a tithe 
of the epicurean delight I felt over a plentiful plate 
of this nameless vegetable and a bit of hard salt beef 
that evening. 

Although the addition to our stock of provisions, 
excepting the fish, was but small, we had an ideal 
day's enjoyment, and the fun we got out of Ancient 
William, the patriarch, was great. We had him tame 
in two days, and trying butting matches with the 
Kanakas ; in spite of his age I don't know what we 
didn't teach him that a goat could learn. Nanny 
presented us with a charming little pet in the shape 
of a kid two days after her arrival on board, but to 

A Sack of Shakings 

the grief of all hands her milk dried up almost 
immediately afterwards, so that [ to save the little 
creature from starvation, as there was not even a 
drop of condensed milk on board, we were compelled 
to kill it. The Kanakas ate it, and pronounced it 
very good. Then William the Ripe, in charging a 
Kanaka, who dodged him by leaping over the fo'c's'le 
scuttle, hurled himself headlong below, breaking both 
his fore legs. We could have mended him up all 
right, but he seemed to resent getting better, refused 
tobacco and all such little luxuries that we tried to 
tempt him with, and died. / think he was broken- 
hearted at the idea that a mountaineer like himself, 
who for goodness knows how many generations had 
scaled in safety the precipitous cliffs of Sunday 
Island, should fall down a stuffy hole on board ship, 
only about eight feet deep, and break himself all up. 


Some delightfully interesting articles on the ancient 
sport of ^^ hawking," or falconry, whichever is the 
correct term to use, in Country Life have vividly re- 
called to me a quaint and unusual experience in that 
line, which fell to my lot while the vessel of whose 
crew I was a very minor portion was slowly making 
her way homewards from a port at the extreme western 
limit of the Gulf of Mexico. We were absolutely with- 
out live stock of any kind on board the Investigator, 
unless such small deer as rats and cockroaches might 
be classed under that head. And, as so often happens 


Country Life on Board Ship 

at sea when that is the case, the men were very dis- 
contented at the absence of any dumb animals to make 
pets of, and often lamented what they considered to 
be the lonely condition of a ship without even a cat. 
But we had not been out of port many days when, to 
our delight as w^ll as amazement, we saw one sunny 
morning hopping contentedly about the fo'c's'le a 
sweet little blue and yellow bird about the bigness (or 
littleness) of a robin. Being well out of sight of land, 
no one could imagine whence he came, neither did 
anybody see him arrive. He just materialised as it 
were in our midst, and made himself at home forth- 
with, as though he had been born and bred among 
men and fear of them was unknown to him. We had 
hardly got over the feeling of almost childish delight 
this pretty, fearless wanderer gave us when another 
appeared, much the same size, but totally different 
in colour. It was quite as tame as the first 
arrival, and did not quarrel with the first-comer. 
Together they explored most amicably the re- 
cesses of the fo'c's'le, apparently much delighted 
with the cockroaches, which swarmed everywhere. 
And before long many others came and joined 
them, all much about the same size, but of all the 
hues imaginable. They were all alike in their tame- 
ness, and it really was one of the most pleasant 
sights I ever witnessed to see those tiny, brilliant 
birds fluttering about our dingy fo'c's'le, or, tired out, 
roosting on such queer perches as the edge of the 
bread-barge or the shelves in our bunks. Their 
presence had a most elevating influence upon the 
roughest of us — we went softly and spoke gently, for 

A Sack of Shakings 

fear of startling these delicate little visitors who were 
so unafraid of the giants among whom they had 
voluntarily taken up their abode. At meal-times 
they hopped about the fo'c's'le deck picking up 
crumbs and behaving generally as if they were in the 
beautiful glades and aromatic forests whence they 
had undoubtedly come. For it is hardly necessary 
to say that they were all land birds ; and when during 
a calm one day one of them, stooping too near the 
sea, got wet, and was unable to rise again, August 
McManus, as tough a citizen as ever painted the 
Highway red, leapt overboard after it, and, with a 
touch as gentle as the enwrapping of lint, rescued it 
from its imminent peril. 

This strange development of sea-life went on for 
a week, the weather being exceedingly fine, with light 
winds and calms. And then we became suddenly 
aware that some large birds had arrived and taken 
up positions upon the upper yards, where they sat 
motionless, occasionally giving vent to a shrill cry. 
What they were none of us knew, until shortly after 
we had first noticed them one of our little messmates 
flew out from the ship's side into the sunshine. 
There was a sudden swish of wings, like the lash of a 
cane through the air, and downward like a brown 
shadow came one of the watchers from aloft, snatch- 
ing in a pair of cruel-looking talons the tiny truant 
from our midst. Then the dullest of us realised that 
in some mysterious way these rapacious birds, a 
species of falcon, had become aware that around 
our ship might be found some of their natural food. 
Now we were not less than 200 miles from the coast 


Country Life on Board Ship 

at the time, and to my mind it was one of the 
strangest things conceivable how those hawks should 
have known that around a solitary ship far out at 
sea would be found a number of little birds suitable 
to their needs. The presence of the small birds 
might easily be explained by their having been blown 
off the land, as high winds had prevailed for some 
little time previous to their appearance, but as the 
hawks did not come till a week afterwards, during 
the whole of w^iich time we had never experienced 
even a four-knot breeze, I am convinced that the 
same theory would not account for their arrival. 
It may have been a coincidence, but if so it was a 
very remarkable one ; and in any case what were 
these essentially land birds of powerful flight doing 
of their own free will so far from land ? Unless, of 
course, they were a little band migrating, and even 
then the coincidence of their meeting our ship w^as 
a most strange one. 

We, however, troubled ourselves but little with 
these speculations. The one thing patent to us 
was that our little pets were exposed to the most 
deadly peril, that these ravenous birds were carry- 
ing them off one by one, and we were apparently 
powerless to protect them. We could not cage 
them, although the absence of cages would have 
been no obstacle, as we should soon have manu- 
factured efficient substitutes ; but they were so 
happy in their freedom that we felt we could not 
deprive them of it. But we organised a raid 
among those bloodthirsty pirates, as we called 
them., forgetting that they were merely obeying the 

1 6 1 L 

A Sack of Shakings 

law of their being, and the first dark hour saw us 
silently creeping aloft to where they had taken 
their roost. Two were caught, but in both cases 
the captors had something to remember their en- 
counter by. Grasping at the shadowy birds in the 
darkness with only one free hand, they were unable 
to prevent the fierce creatures defending themselves 
with beak and talons, and one man came down 
with his prize's claws driven so far into his hand 
that the wounds took many days to heal. When 
we had secured them we couldn't bring ourselves 
to kill them, they were such handsome, graceful 
birds, but had they been given a choice in the 
matter I make no doubt they would have preferred 
a speedy death rather than the lingering pain of 
starvation which befell them. For they refused all 
food, and sat moping on their perches, . only rous- 
ing when any one came near, and glaring unsub- 
dued with their bold, fierce eyes, bright and fearless 
until they glazed in death. We were never able 
to catch any more of them, although they remained 
wdth us until our captain managed to allow the 
vessel to run ashore upon one of the enormous 
coral reefs that crop up here and there in the Gulf 
of Mexico. The tiny spot of dry land that 
appeared at the summit of this great mountain 
of coral was barren of all vegetation except a 
little creeping plant, a kind of arenaria, so that it 
would have afforded no satisfactory abiding-place 
for our little shipmates, even if any of them could 
escape the watchful eyes of their enemies aloft. 
So that I suppose after we abandoned the ship 


Country Life on Board Ship 

they remained on board until she broke up alto- 
gether, and then fell an easy prey to the falcons. 

This was the only occasion upon which I have 
known a vessel at sea to be visited by so varied a 
collection of small birds, and certainly the only 
case I have ever heard of where land birds have 
flown on board and made themselves at home. 
When I say at sea, of course I do not mean in 
a narrow strait like the Channel, where passing 
vessels must often be visited by migrants crossing 
to or from the Continent. But when well out in 
the North Atlantic, certainly to the westward of 
the Azores, and out of sight of them, I have several 
times known a number of swallows to fly on board 
and cling almost like bats to whatever projections 
they first happened to reach. Exhausted with their 
long battle against the overmastering winds, faint 
with hunger and thirst, they had at last reached a 
resting-place, only to find it so unsuited to all their 
needs that nothing remained for them to do but 
die. Earnest attempts were made to induce them to 
live, but unsuccessfully ; and as they never regained 
strength sufficient to resume their weary journey, 
they provided a sumptuous meal for the ship's cat. 
Even had they been able to make a fresh start, it is 
hard to imagine that the sense of direction which 
guides them in their long flight from or to their 
winter haunts would have enabled them to shape a 
course from such an utterly unknown base as a ship 
at sea must necessarily be to them. 

While making a passage up the China Sea vessels 
are often boarded by strange bird visitors, and some 


A Sack of Shakings 

of them may be induced to live upon such scanty 
fare as can be found for them on shipboard. I once 
witnessed with intense interest a gallant attempt 
made by a crane to find a rest for her weary wings 
on board of an old barque in which I was an able 
seamen. We were two days out from Hong-Kong, 
bound to Manila, through a strong south-west mon- 
soon. The direction of the wind almost enabled us 
to lay our course, and therefore the ^' old man " was 
cracking on, all the sail being set that she would 
stagger under close-hauled. Being in ballast, she lay 
over at an angle that would have alarmed anybody 
but a yachtsman ; but she was a staunch, weatherly 
old ship, and hung well to windward. It was my 
wheel from six to eight in the evening, and as I 
wrestled with it in the attempt to keep the old barky 
up to her work, I suddenly caught sight of the gaunt 
form of a crane flapping her heavy wings in dogged 
fashion to come up with us from to leeward, we 
making at the time about eight knots an hour. After 
a long fight the brave bird succeeded in reaching 
us, and coasted along the lee side, turning her long 
neck anxiously from side to side as if searching for 
a favourable spot whereon to alight. Just as she 
seemed to have made up her mind to come inboard 
abaft the foresail, a gust of back-draught caught her 
wide pinions and whirled her away to leeward, about 
a hundred fathoms at one sweep, w^hile it was evident 
that she had the utmost dit^culty in maintaining 
her balance. Another long struggle ensued as the 
gloom of the coming night deepened, and the steady, 
strenuous wind pressed us onward through the turbu- 


Country Life on Board Ship 

lent sea. The weary pilgrim at last succeeded in 
fetching up to us again, and with a feeling of the 
keenest satisfaction I saw her work her way to 
windward, as if instinct warned her that in that 
way alone she would succeed in reaching a place 
of rest. Backward and forward along our weather 
side she sailed twice, searching with anxious eye 
the whole of our decks, but fearing to trust herself 
thereon, where so many men were apparently 
awaiting to entrap her. No, she would not venture, 
and quite a pang of disappointment and sympathy 
shot through me as I saw her drift away astern 
and renew her hopeless efforts to board us on the 
lee side. At last she came up so closely that I 
could see the laboured heaving of her breast muscles, 
and I declare that the expression in her full, dark 
eyes was almost human in its pathos of despair. 
She poised herself almost above the rail, the vessel 
gave a great lee lurch, and down the slopes of the 
mizen came pouring an eddy of baffled wind. It 
caught the doomed bird, whirled her over and over 
as she fought vainly to regain her balance, and at 
last bore her down so closely to the seething tumult 
beneath her that a breaking wave lapped her up 
and she disappeared. All hands had witnessed her 
brave battle with fate, and quite a buzz of sympathy 
went up for her in her sad defeat. 

That same evening one of the lads found a strange 
bird nestling under one of the boats. None of us 
knew what it was, for none of us ever remembered 
seeing so queer a creature before. Nor will this be 
wondered at when I say that it was a goat-sucker, 


A Sack of Shakings 

as I learned long afterwards by seeing a plate of 
one in a Natural History I was reading. But the 
curious speculations that its appearance gave rise to 
in the fo'c's'le were most amusing. The wide gape 
of its mouth, so unexpected when it was shut, was 
a source of the greatest wonder, while the downy 
fluff of its feathers made one man say it reminded 
him of a ^'nowl" that a skipper of a ship he was 
in once caught and kept alive for a long time as 
a pet. 

Of the few visitors that board a ship in mid-ocean 
none are more difficult to account for than butter- 
flies. I have seen the common white butterfly 
fluttering about a ship in the North Atlantic when 
she was certainly over 500 miles from the nearest 
land. And in various parts of the w^orld butterflies 
and moths will suddenly appear as if out of space, 
although the nearest land be several hundreds of 
miles distant. I have heard the theory advanced 
that their chrysalides must have been on board 
the ship, and they have just been hatched out when 
seen. It may be so, although I think unlikely; but 
yet it is hard to imagine that so fragile a creature, 
associated only in the mind with sunny gardens or 
scented hillsides, could brave successfully the stern 
rigour of a flight extending over several hundred 
miles of sea. All that is certain about the matter 
is that they do visit the ships at such distances from 
land, and disappear as if disheartened at the un- 
suitability of their environment. Lying in Sant' Ana, 
Mexico, once, loading mahogany, I witnessed the 
labours of an unbidden guest that made me incline 


Country Life on Board Ship 

somewhat to the chrysahs theory about the butter- 
flies. Our anchorage was some three miles off shore 
in the open roadstead, w^here the rafts of great 
mahogany logs tossed and tumbled about ceaselessly 
alongside. They had all been a long time in the water 
before they reached us, and were consequently w^ell 
coated with slime, which made them an exceedingly 
precarious footing for the unfortunate slingsman, who 
was as often in the water as he was on the raft. 
One evening as I lay in my bunk reading by the 
light of a smuggled candle, I was much worried by 
a persistent buzz that sounded very near, and far 
too loud to be the voice of any mosquito that I 
had ever been unfortunate enough to be attended 
by. ■ Several times I looked for this noisy insect 
w^ithout success, and at last gave up the task and 
W'Cnt on deck, feeling sure there wasn't room in the 
bunk for the possessor of that voice and myself. 
Next day after dinner I was again lying in my bunk, 
resting during the remainder of the dinner hour, 
when to my amazement I saw what I took to be an 
overgrown wasp or hornet suddenly alight upon a 
beam overhead, walk into a corner, and begin the 
music that had so worried me overnight. I watched 
him keenly, but could hardly make out his little 
game, until he suddenly flew away. Then getting 
a light, for the corner was rather dark, I discovered 
a row of snug apartments much like acorn-cups, 
only deeper, all neatly cemented together, and as 
smooth inside as a thimble. Presently along came 
Mr. Wasp, or Hornet, or whatever he was, again, 
and set to work, while I watched him as closely as 


A Sack of Shakings 

I dared without giving him offence, noticing that 
he carried his material in a Httle blob on his chest 
between his fore legs. It looked like mud ; but 
where could he get mud from ? I could swear there 
was none on board under that fierce sun, and I 
couldn't imagine him going six miles in five minutes, 
which he must needs have done had he gone ashore 
for it. So I watched his flight as well as I could, 
but it was two days before I discovered my gentle- 
man on one of the logs alongside, scraping up a 
supply of slime, and skipping nimbly into the air 
each time the sea washed over his alighting-place. 
That mystery was solved at any rate. I kept careful 
watch over that row of dwellings thereafter, deter- 
mined to suppress the whole block at the first sign 
of a brood of wasps making their appearance. None 
ever did, and at last I took down the cells with 
the greatest care, finding them perfectly empty. So 
I came to the conclusion that my ingenious and 
industrious guest had been building for the love 
of the thing, or for amusement, or ito keep his hand 
in, or perhaps something warned him in time that 
the site he had selected for his eligible row of 
residences was liable to sudden serious vicissitudes 
of climate. At any rate, he abandoned them, much 
to my comfort. 



Solomon had, among the many mighty quaUties of 
mind which have secured his high eminence as the 
wisest man of the world, an attribute which does not 
always accompany abundant knowledge. He was 
prompt to admit his limitations, as far as he knew 
them, frankly and fully. And among them he con- 
fesses an inability to understand '' the way of a ship 
in the midst of the sea." It may be urged that there 
was little to wonder at in this, since the exigencies of 
his position must have precluded his gaining more 
than the slightest actual experience of seafaring. Yet 
it is marvellous that he should have mentioned this 
thing, seemingly simple to a shore-dweller, which is 
to all mariners a mystery past finding out. No 
matter how long a sailor may have sailed the seas in 
one ship, or how deeply he may have studied the 
ways of that ship under apparently all combinations 
of wind and sea, he will never be found to assert 
thoughtfully that he knows her altogether. Much 
more, then, are the myriad idiosyncrasies of all ships 
unknowable. Kipling has done more, perhaps, than 
any other living writer to point out how certain fabrics 
of man's construction become invested with individu- 
ality of an unmistakable kind, and of course so acute 
an observer could not fail to notice how pre-eminently 
is this the case with ships. 


A Sack of Shakings 

Now, in what follows I seek as best I may to show, 
by a niggardly handful of instances in my own ex- 
perience, how the " personality " of ships expresses 
itself, and how incomprehensible these manifestations 
are to the men whose business it is to study them. 
Even before the ship has quitted the place of her 
birth, yea, while she is yet a-building, something of 
this may be noted. One man will study deepest 
mathematical problems, will perfectly apply his for- 
mulae, and see them accurately embodied in steel or 
timber, so that by all ordinary laws of cause and 
effect the resultant vessel should be a marvel of 
speed, stability, and strength. And yet she is a 
failure. She has all the vices that the sailor knows 
and dreads : crank, slow, leewardly, hanging in stays, 
impossible to steer satisfactorily. Every man who 
ever sails in her carries in his tenacious sea-memory, 
to the day of his death, vengeful recollections of her 
perversities, and often in the dog-watch holds forth 
to his shipmates in eloquent denunciation of her mani- 
fold iniquities long after one would have thought her 
very name would be forgotten. Another shipbuilder, 
innocent of a scintilla of mathematics, impatient of 
diagrams, will begin apparently without prepara- 
tion, adding timber to timber, and breast-hook to 
stem, until out of the dumb cavern of his mind a ship 
is evolved, his inexpressible idea manifested in grace- 
ful yet massive shape. And that ship will be all that 
the other is not. As if the spirit of her builder had 
somehow been wrought into her frame, she behaves 
with intelligence, and becomes the delight, the pride, 
of those fortunate enough to sail in her. 



The Way of a Ship " 

Such a vessel it was once my good fortune to join 
in London for a winter passage across to Nova Scotia. 
Up to that time my experience had been confined 
to large vessels and long voyages, and it was not 
without the stern compulsion of want that I shipped 
in the IVajzderer. She was a brigantine of two 
hundred and forty tons register, built in some little 
out-of-the-way harbour in Nova Scotia by one of the 
amphibious sailor-farmers of that ungenerous coast, ' 
in just such a rule-of-thumb manner as I have spoken 
of. When I got on board I pitied myself greatly. I 
felt cramped for room ; I dreaded the colossal waves 
of the Atlantic at that stormy winter season, in what 
I considered to be a weakly built craft fit only for 
creeping closely along-shore. We worked down the 
river, also a new departure to me, always accustomed 
hitherto to be towed down to Beachy Head by a 
strenuous tug. The delicate way in which she re- 
sponded to all the calls we made on her astonished 
our pilot, who was loud in his praises of her '* handi- 
ness," one of the most praiseworthy qualities a ship 
can have in a seaman's eyes. Nevertheless, I still looked 
anxiously forward to our meeting with the Atlantic, 
although day by day, as we zigzagged down Chan- 
nel, I felt more and more amazed at the sympathy 
she showed with her crew. At last we emerged 
upon the wide, open ocean, clear of even the idea 
of shelter from any land ; and as if to show con- 
clusively how groundless were my fears, it blew 
a bitter north-west gale. Never have I known 
such keen delight in watching a vessel's behaviour 
as I knew then. As if she were one of the sea- 


A Sack of Shakings 

people, such as the foam-Uke gulls or wheeling 
petrels, next of kin to the waves themselves, she 
sported with the tumultuous elements, her motion 
as easy as the sway of the seaweed and as light as 
a bubble. And even when the strength of the 
storm-wind forbade us to show more than the 
tiniest square of canvas, she answered the touch 
of her helm, as sensitive to its gentle suasion as 
Hiawatha's Cheemaun to the voice of her master. 
Never a wave broke on deck, although she had 
so little free-board that a bucket of water could 
almost be dipped without the aid of a lanyard. 
That gale taught me a lesson I have never been 
able to forget. It was, never to judge of the 
seaworthy qualities of a ship by her appearance 
at anchor, but to wait until she had an oppor- 
tunity of telling me in her own language what she 
could do. 

Then came a spell of favourable weather — for 
the season, that is — when we could carry plenty 
of sail and make good use of our time. Another 
characteristic now revealed itself in her — her steer- 
ability. Once steady on her course under all 
canvas, one turn of a spoke, or at most of two 
spokes, of the wheel was sufficient to keep her so ; 
and for an hour I have walked back and forth be- 
fore the wheel, with both hands in my pockets, 
while she sped along at ten knots an hour, as 
straight as an arrow in its flight. But when any 
sail was taken off her, no matter which, she would 
no longer steer herself, as if the just and perfect 
balance of her sail area had been disturbed ; but 


" The Way of a Ship " 

she was easier to steer then than any vessel I have 
ever known. Lastly, a strong gale tested her 
powers of running before it, the last touch of ex- 
cellence in any ship being that she shall run 
safely dead before a gale. During its height we 
passed the Anchor liner California^ a huge steam- 
ship some twenty times our bulk. From end to 
end of that mighty ship the frohcsome waves leaped 
and tumbled ; from every scupper and swinging-port 
spouted a briny flood. Every sea, meeting her mass 
in its way, just climbed on board and spread itself, so 
that she looked, as sailors say, like a half-tide rock. 
From her towering hurricane-deck our little craft 
must have appeared a forlorn little object — just a 
waif of the sea, existing only by a succession of 
miracles. Yet even her muffled-up passengers, 
gazing down upon the white dryness of our decks, 
looked as if they could dimly understand that 
the comfort which was unmistakably absent from 
their own wallowing monster was cosily present 
with us. 

Another vessel, built on the same coast, but three 
times the size of the Wanderer^ was the Sea Gein^ 
in which I had an extended experience. Under an 
old sea-dog of a captain who commanded her the 
first part of the voyage, she played more pranks 
than a jibbing mule with a new driver. None of 
the ordinary manoeuvres necessary to a sailing-ship 
would she perform without the strangest antics and 
refusals. She seemed possessed of a stubborn demon 
of contrariness. Sometimes at night, when, at the 
change of the watch, all hands were kept on deck 


A Sack of Shakings 

to tack ship, more than an hour would be wasted 
in futile attempts to get her about in a seamanlike 
way. She would prance up into the wind gaily 
enough, as if about to turn in her own length, and 
then at the crucial moment fall off again against 
the hard-down helm, while all hands cursed her 
vigorously for the most obstinate, clumsy vessel ever 
calked. Or she would come up far enough for the 
order of ''mainsail haul," and there she would stick, 
like a wall-eyed sow in a muddy lane, hard and fast 
in irons. With her mainyards braced a-port and 
her foreyards a-starboard, she reminded all hands 
of nothing so much as the old sea-yarn of the 
Yankee schooner-skipper who for the first time found 
himself in command of a bark. Quite scared of 
those big square sails, he lay in port until, by some 
lucky chance, he got hold of a mate who had long 
sailed in square-rigged vessels. Then he boldly put 
to sea. But by some evil hap the poor mate fell 
overboard and was drowned when they had been 
several days out ; and one morning a homeward- 
bounder spied a bark in irons making rapid signals 
of distress, although the weather was fine, and the 
vessel appeared staunch and seaworthy enough. 
Rounding to under the sufferer's stern, the home- 
ward-bound skipper hailed, ''What's the matter?" 
" Oh ! " roared the almost frantic Yankee, " for God's 
sake send somebody aboard that knows somethin' about 
this kind er ship. I've lost my square-rigged mate 
overboard, an' I cain't git a move on her nohow ! " 
He'd been trying to sail her "winged out," schooner 
fashion. So disgusted was our skipper with the Sea 


" The Way of a Ship " 

Gem that he left her in Mobile, saying that he was 
going to retire from the sea altogether. But we 
all believed he was scared to death that she would 
run away with him some fine day. Another skipper 
took command, a Yankee Welshman by the name of 
Jones. The first day out I heard the second mate 
say to him deferentially, '' She's rather ugly in stays, 
sir." '■^ Is she?" queried the old man, with an 
astonished air. *' Wall, I should hev surmised she 
was ez nimble ez a kitten. Yew don't say! " Shortly 
after it became necessary to tack, and, to our utter 
amazement, the Sea Gem came about in almost her 
own length, with never a suggestion that she had 
ever been otherwise than as handy as a St. Ives 
smack. Nor did she ever after betray any signs 
of unwillingness to behave with the same cheerful 
alacrity. Had her trim been different we could have 
understood it, because some ships handy in ballast 
are veritable cows when loaded, and vice versa. But 
that reasoning had here no weight, since her draft 
was essentially the same. 

Not without a groan do I recall a passage in one 
of the handsomest composite barks I ever saw. Her 
name I shall not give, as she was owned in London, 
and may be running still, for all I know. My eye 
lingered lovingly over her graceful lines as she lay 
in dock, and I thought gleefully that a passage to 
New Zealand in her would be like a yachting-trip. 
An additional satisfaction was some patent steering- 
gear which I had always longed to handle, having 
been told that it was a dream of delight to take a 
trick with it. I admit that she was right down to 

A Sack of Shakings 

her PlimsoU, and I will put it to her credit that she 
was only some dozen miles to leeward of the ill- 
fated Bury dice when that terrible disaster occurred 
that extinguished so many bright young lives. But 
the water was smooth, and we had no long row of 
lower-deck ports open for the sea to rush in when 
the vessel heeled to a sudden squall. It is only her 
Majesty's ships that are exposed to such dangers as 
that. In fact, for the first fortnight out she was 
on her extra-special behaviour, although none of us 
fellows for'ard liked a dirty habit she had of lifting 
heavy sprays over fore and aft in a whole-sail breeze. 
Presently along came a snifter from the south-west, 
and every man of us awoke to the fact that we were 
aboard of a hooker saturated with every vicious 
habit known to ships. There was no dryness in 
her. You never knew where or when she would 
bow down to a harmless-looking sea and allow it 
to lollop on board, or else, with a perversity almost 
incredible, fall up against it so clumsily that it would 
send a blinding sheet of spray as high as the clues 
of the upper topsails. Words fail me to tell of the 
patent atrocity with which we were condemned to 
steer. Men would stand at the wheel for their two 
hours' trick, and imagine tortures for the inventor 
thereof, coming for'ard at four or eight bells, speech- 
lessly congested with the volume of their impreca- 
tions upon him. Yet I have no doubt he, poor 
man, considered himself a benefactor to the genus 
seafarer. In any weather you could spin the wheel 
round from hard up to hard down without feeling 
the slightest pressure of the sea against the rudder. 


" The Way of a Ship " 

And as, to gain power, speed must be lost, two 
turns of the wheel were equal to only one with the 
old-fashioned gear. The result of these differences 
was to a sailor simply maddening. For all seamen 
steer as much by the feel of the wheel as by any- 
thing else (I speak of sailing-ships throughout), a 
gentle increase of pressure warning you when she 
wants a little bit to meet her in her sidelong swing. 
Not only so, but there is a subtle sympathy (to a 
good helmsman) conveyed in those alterations of 
pressure which, while utterly unexplainable in words, 
make all the difference between good and bad steer- 
ing. Then, none of us could get used to the 
doubling of the amount of helm necessary. We 
were always giving her too much or too little. As 
she was by no means an easy-steering ship, even 
had her gear been all right, the consequence of 
this diabolical impediment to her guidance was that 
the man who kept her within two points and a half, 
in anything like a breeze, felt that he deserved high 

Still, with all these unpleasantnesses, we worried 
along in fairly comfortable style, for we had a fresh 
mess and railway-duff (a plum at every station) every 
Sunday. Every upper bunk in the fo'c'sle was leaky, 
and always remained so ; but we rigged up water- 
sheds that kept us fairly dry during our slumbers. 
So we fared southward through the fine weather, 
forgetting, with the lax memory of the sailor for 
miserable weather, the sloppy days that had passed, 
and giving no thought to the coming struggle. 
Gradually we stole out of the trade area, until the 

177 M 

A Sack of Shakings 

paling blue of the sky and the accumulation of torn 
and feathery cloud-fields warned us of our approach 
to that stern region where the wild western wind 
reigns supreme. The trades wavered, fell, and died 
away. Out from the west, with a rush and a roar, 
came the cloud-compeller, and eastward we fled 
before it. An end now to all comfort fore and aft. 
For she wallowed and grovelled, allowing every sea, 
however kindly disposed, to leap on board, until the 
incessant roar of the water from port to starboard 
dominated our senses even in sleep. A massive 
breakwater of two-inch kauri planks was fitted across 
the deck in front of the saloon for the protection of 
the afterguard, who dwelt behind it as in a stockaded 
fort. As the weather grew worse, and the sea got 
into its gigantic stride, our condition became deplor- 
able ; for it was a task of great danger to get from 
the fo'c'sle to the wheel, impossible to perform 
without a drenching, and always invested with the 
risk of being dashed to pieces. We '* carried on" 
recklessly in order to keep her at least ahead of the 
sea ; but at night, when no stars were to be seen, 
and the compass swung madly through all its thirty- 
two points, steering was mental and physical torture. 
In fact, it was only possible to steer at all by the feel 
of the wind at one's back, and even then the best 
helmsman among us could not keep her within two 
points on each side of her course. We lived in 
hourly expectation of a catastrophe, and for weeks 
none of us forward ever left off oilskins and sea-boots 
even to sleep in. At last, on Easter Sunday, three 
seas swept on board simultaneously. One launched 



The Way of a Ship " 

itself like a Niagara over the stern, and one rose on 
each side in the waist, until the two black hills 
of water towered above us for fully twenty feet. 
Then they leaned toward each other and fell, their 
enormous weight threatening to crush our decks in 
as if they had been paper. Nothing could be seen 
of the hull for a smother of w^hite, except the fore- 
castle-head. When, after what seemed an age, she 
slowly lifted out of that boiling, yeasty whirl, the 
breakwater was gone, and so w^as all the planking 
of the bulwarks on both sides from poop to fore- 
castle break. Nothing was left but to heave to, and 
I, for one, firmly believed that we should never get 
her up into the wind. However, we were bound to 
try; and watching the smooth (between two sets 
of seas), the helm was put hard down and the mizen 
hauled out. Round she came swiftly enough, but 
just as she presented her broadside to the sea, up 
rose a monstrous wave. Over, over she went — over 
until the third ratline of the lee rigging was under 
water ; that is to say, the lee rail w^as full six feet 
under the sea. One hideous tumult prevailed, one 
dazzling glare of foaming water surrounded us ; but 
1 doubt whether any of us thought of anything but 
how long we could hold our breath. Had she been 
less deeply loaded she must have capsized. As it 
was, she righted again, and came up into the wind 
still afloat. But never before or since have I seen 
a vessel behave like that hove to. We were black 
and blue with being banged about, our arms strained 
almost to uselessness by holding on. Beast as she 
was, the strength of her hull was amazing, or she 


A Sack of Shakings 

would have been racked to splinters : for in that 
awful sea she rolled clean to windward until she 
filled herself, then canted back again until she lay 
nearly on her beam-ends ; and this she did continu- 
ally for three days and nights. At the first of the 
trouble the cabin had been gutted so that neither 
officers nor passengers had a dry thread, and of 
course all cooking was impossible. I saw the skipper 
chasing his sextant (in its box) around the saloon- 
table, which was just level with the water which 
was making havoc with everything. And not a 
man of us for'ard but had some pity to spare for 
the one woman passenger (going out with her little 
boy to join her husband), who, we knew, was crouch- 
ing in the corner of an upper bunk in her cabin, 
hugging her child to her bosom, and watching with 
fascinated eyes the sullen wash of the dark v/ater 
that plunged back and forth across the sodden strip 
of carpet. 

In spite of all these defects in the ship, she reached 
Lyttelton in safety at last ; and I, with more thank- 
fulness than I knew how to express, was released 
from her, and took my place as an officer on board 
a grand old ship three times her size. Unfortunately 
for me, my sea experience of her extended only over 
one short passage to Adelaide, where she was laid 
up for sale ; and of my next ship I have spoken at 
length elsewhere, so I may not enlarge upon her 
behaviour here. After that I had the good fortune 
to get a berth as second mate of the Harbinger^ to 
my mind one of the noblest specimens of modern 
shipbuilding that ever floated. She was lofty— 


" The Way of a Ship " 

210 feet from water-line to skysail truck — and with 
all her white wings spread, thirty-one mighty sails, 
she looked like a mountain of snow. She was built 
of steel, and in every detail was as perfect as any 
sailor could wish. For all her huge bulk she was 
as easy to handle as any ten-ton yacht — far easier 
than some — and in any kind of weather her docility 
was amazing. No love-sick youth was ever more 
enamoured of his sweetheart than I of that splendid 
ship. For hours of my watch below I have sat 
perched upon the martingale guys under the jib- 
boom, watching with all a lover's complacency the 
stately sheer of her stem through the sparkling sea, 
and dreamily noting the delicate play of rainbow 
tints through and through the long feather of spray 
that ran unceasingly up the stem, and, curling out- 
ward, fell in a diamond shower upon the blue surface 
below. She was so clean in the entrance that you 
never saw a foaming spread of broken water ahead, 
driven in front bv the vast onset of the hull. She 
parted the waves before her pleasantly, as an arrow 
the air ; graciously, as if loath to disturb their wide- 
spread solitude. 

But it needed a tempest to show her " way " in 
its perfection. Like the Wanderer, but in a grand 
and gracious fashion, she seemed to claim affinity 
with the waves, and they in their wildest tumult met 
her as if they too knew and loved her. She was the 
only ship I ever knew or heard of that would ''stay " 
under storm-staysails, reefed topsails, and a reefed 
foresail in a gale of wind. In fact, I never saw any- 
thing that she w^ould not do that a ship should do. 


A Sack of Shakings 

She was so truly a child of the ocean that even a 
bungler could hardly mishandle her ; she would work 
well in spite of him. And, lastly, she would steer \ 
when you could hardly detect an air out of the 
heavens, with a sea like a mirror, and the sails 
hanging apparently motionless. The men used to 
say she would go a knot with only the quartermaster 
whistling at the wheel for a wind. 

Then for my sins I shipped before the mast in 
an equally large iron ship bound for Calcutta. She 
was everything that the Harbinger was not — an ugly 
abortion that the sea hated. When I first saw her 
(after I had shipped), I asked the cook whether she . 
wasn't a razeed steamboat — I had almost said an ^ 
adapted loco-boiler. When he told me that this was 
only her second voyage I had to get proof before I 
could believe him. And as her hull was, so were 
her sails. They looked like a job lot scared up at 
ship-chandlers' sales, and hung upon the yards like 
rags drying. Our contempt for her was too great 
for words. Of course she was under water while 
there was any wind to speak of, and her motions 
were as strange as those of a seasick pig. A dredger 
would have beaten her at sailing ; a Medway barge, 
with her Plimsoll mark in the main-rigging, would 
have been ten times as comfortable. Somehow we 
buttocked her out in 190 days with 2500 tons of salt 
in her hold, and again my fortunate star intervened 
to get me out of her and into a better ship as 
second mate. 

Of steamers I have no authority to speak, although 
they, too, have their ways, quite as non-understand- 



The Way of a Ship " 

able as sailing-ships, and complicated, too, by the 
additional entity of the engines within. But every- 
thing that floats and is built by man, from the three- 
log catamaran of the Malabar coast, or the balsa of 
Brazil, up to the latest leviathan, has a way of its 
own, and that way is certainly, in all its variations, 
past finding out. 



Nothing is more loudly regretted by the praisers 
of old times than the gradual disappearance of 
etiquette under the stress and burden of these 
bustling days, and nowhere is the decay of etiquette 
more pronounced than at sea. Romance persists 
because until machinery can run itself humanity 
must do so, and where men and women live romance 
cannot die. But were it not for the Royal Navy, 
with its perfect discipline and unbroken traditions, 
etiquette at sea must without doubt perish entirely, 
and that soon. Such fragments of it as still survive 
in the Merchant Service are confined to sailing- 
ships, those beautiful visions that are slowly dis- 
appearing one by one from off the face of the 
deep. Take, for instance, the grand old custom so 
full of meaning of ^'saluting the deck." The poop 
or raised after-deck of a ship over which floated 
the national flag was considered to be always per- 
vaded by the presence of the Sovereign, and, as 
the worshipper of whatever rank removes his hat 
upon entering a church, so from the Admiral to 
the powder-monkey every member of the ship's 
company as he set foot upon the poop ^^ saluted 
the deck" — the invisible presence. As the division 
between men-of-war and merchantmen widened so 
the practice weakened in the latter, and only now 


Sea Etiquette 

survives in the rigidly enforced practice of every 
person below the rank of Captain or mate coming 
up on to the poop by the lee side. And among 
the officers the practice is also observed according 
to rank, for with the Captain on deck the chief 
mate takes the lee side. But since in steamers there 
is often no lee side, the custom in them has com- 
pletely died out. To etiquette also belongs the 
strict observance of the rule in all vessels of tack- 
ing '^Sir" on to every reply to an officer, or the 
accepted synonym for his position to a tradesman 
who is a petty officer, as ''Boss" for boatswain, 
''Chips" for carpenter, "Sails" for sailmaker, and 
"Doctor" for cook. A woeful breach of etiquette 
is committed by the Captain who, coming on deck 
while one of his mates is carrying out some 
manoeuvre, takes upon himself to give orders direct 
to the men. It is seldom resented by junior 
officers for obvious reasons, but the chief mate 
would probably retire to another part of the vessel 
at once with the remark that it was "only one 
man's work." 

In many cases etiquette and discipline are so 
closely interwoven that it is hard to know where 
one leaves off and the other begins, but in all 
such cases observance is strictly enforced as being 
one of the few remaining means whereby even 
a sim.ulacrum of discipline is maintained in under- 
manned and oversparred sailing-ships— such as the 
repetition of every order given by the hearer, the 
careful avoidance of any interference by one man 
with another's work in the presence of an officer, 


A Sack of Shakings 

and the preservation of each officer's rightful attitude 
toward those under his charge and his superiors. 
Thus during the secular work of the day, work, that 
is, apart from handling the ship, the mate gives his 
orders to the boatswain, who sees them carried 
out. Serious friction always arises when during 
any operation the mate comes between the boat- 
swain and his gang, unless, as sometimes happens, 
the boatswain be hopelessly incompetent. 

In the private life of the ship every officer's 
berth is his house, sacred, inviolable, wherein none 
may enter without his invitation. And in a case 
of serious dereliction of duty or disqualification it 
becomes his prison. ''Go to your room, sir," is a 
sentence generally equivalent to professional ruin, 
since a young officer's future lies in the hollow of 
his Commander's hand. The saloon is free to 
officers only at meal-times, not a common parlour 
wherein they may meet for chat and recreation, 
except in port with the Captain ashore. And as 
it is ''aft" so in its degree is it "forrard." In 
some ships the carpenter has a berth to himself 
and a workshop besides, into which none may 
enter under pain of instant wrath — and " Chips " 
is not a man to be lightly offended. But in most 
cases all the petty officers berth together in an 
apartment called by courtesy the " half-deck," 
although it seldom resembles in a a remote degree 
the dingy, foetid hole that originally bore that name. 
Very dignified are the petty officers, gravely con- 
scious of their dignity, and sternly set upon the 
due maintenance of their rightful status as the 


Sea Etiquette 

backbone of the ship's company. Such a grave 
breach of etiquette as an ^'A.B." entering their 
quarters, with or without invitation, is seldom heard 
of, and quite as infrequent are the occasions when 
an ofticer does so. In large ships, where six or 
seven apprentices are carried, an apartment in a 
house on deck is set apart for their sole occupation, 
and the general characteristic of such an abode is 
chaos — unless, indeed, there should be a senior 
apprentice of sufficient stability to preserve order, 
which there seldom is. These "boys' houses" are 
bad places for a youngster fresh from school, unless 
a conscientious Captain or chief mate should happen 
to be at the head of affairs and make it his business 
to give an eye to the youngsters' proceedings when 
off duty. Of course etiquette may be looked for 
in vain here, unless it be the etiquette of ''fagging" 
in its worst sense. 

The men's quarters, always called the forecastle, 
even when a more humane shipowner than usual has 
relegated the forecastle proper to its rightful use as 
lockers for non-perishable stores and housed his men 
in a building on deck, is always divided longitudi- 
nally in half. The port or mate's watch live on the 
port side, the starboard or second mate's watch on 
the starboard side. To this rule there is no ex- 
ception. And here we have etiquette in excelsis. 
Although the barrier between the two sides is usually 
of the flimsiest and often quite imaginary in effect, 
it is a wall of separation with gates guarded and 
barred. The visitor from one side to the other, 
whatever his excuse, approaches humblv, feeling ill 


A Sack of Shakings 

at ease until made welcome. And from dock to dock 
it is an unheard-of thing for any officer save the 
Captain to so much as look into the forecastle. Of 
course, exceptional circumstances do arise, such as 
a general outbreak of recalcitrancy, but the occasion 
must be abnormal for such a breach of etiquette to 
be made. Some Captains very wisely make it their 
duty to go the round of the ship each morning, 
seeing that everything is as it should be, and these 
enter the forecastle as a part of their examination. 
But this is quite the exception to the general rule, 
and is always felt to be more or less of an infringe- 
ment of immemorial right. 

In what must be called the social life of the fore- 
castle, although it is commonly marked by an utter 
absence of social observances, there are several well- 
defined rules of etiquette which persist in spite of 
all other changes. One must not lock his chest at 
sea. As soon as the last landsman has left the ship, 
unlock the ^' donkey," throw the key ostentatiously 
into the till, and, letting the lid fall, seat yourself 
upon it, and light your pipe. It is a Masonic sign 
of good-fellowship, known and read of all men, that 
you are a " Sou' Spainer " indeed, at home again. 
The first time that the newly assembled crew sit 
down gipsy fashion to a meal (for tables are seldom 
supplied), there may be one, usually a boy, who 
fails to remove his cap. Then does the nearest 
man's hand seek the '' bread-barge " for a whole 
biscuit, generally of tile-like texture and consistency. 
Grasping it by spreading his fingers all over its 
circumference, the mentor brings it down crushingly 


Sea Etiquette 

upon the covered head of the offender, who is thus 
initiated, as it were, to the fact that he must ''show 
respect to his grub," as the term goes. But often 
when the commons have been exceptionally short 
or bad an old seaman will deliberately put on his 
cap again with the remark '' 'Tain't wuth it." If a 
man wants to smoke while a meal is in progress let 
him go outside, unless he desires deliberately to raise 
a storm. And when on the first day of serving out 
stores a man has been induced to undertake the 
onerous duty of dividing to each one his weekly 
portion — ''whacking out" — gross indeed must be 
his carelessness or unfairness before any sufferer 
will raise a protest. It used to be the practice to 
load the boys or ordinary seamen (a grade between 
"A.B." and boy) w^ith all the menial service of the 
forecastle, such as food-fetching, washing up utensils, 
scrubbing, &c. But a juster and wiser plan has 
been borrowed from the Navy, whereby each man 
takes in rotation a week as "cook of the mess." He 
cooks nothing, the "Doctor" will take care of that, 
but he is the servant of his house for that week, 
responsible for its due order and cleanliness. The 
boys are usually kept out of the forecastle altogether, 
and berthed with the petty officers, a plan which 
has with some advantages grave drawbacks. One 
curious old custom deserves passing notice. Upon 
a vessel's arrival in ports where it is necessary to 
anchor, it is usual to set what is called an "anchor- 
watch " the first night. All hands take part in this 
for one hour each, or should do so, but that some- 
times there are too few and sometimes too many. 


A Sack of Shakings 

As soon as the order is given to ^' pick for anchor- 
watch " an old hand draws a rude circle on the 
deck, which he subdivides into as many sections as 
there are men. Then one man retires while all the 
rest come forward and make each man his private 
mark in a section. When all have contributed, the 
excluded one (whose mark has been made for him 
by deputy) is called in and solemnly rubs out mark 
after mark, the first to be rubbed out giving its owner 
the first hour's watch, and so on. 

Nothing has been said about etiquette in the Royal 
Navy, because there it is hardly ever to be distin- 
guished from disciplinary rule. Nor has allusion 
been more than casually made to steamships, whose 
routine excludes etiquette, having no more room for 
it than it has for seamanship, except upon rare 



Beloved of the poet and the painter, appeahng by 
the inimitable grace of their curves and marvel of 
their motion to all mankind, the waves of the sea 
take easily their high place with the stars and the 
mountains as some of the chief glories attendant 
upon the round world. Only an artist, perhaps, 
could do justice to the multiplicity of lovely lines 
into which the ruffled surface of the ocean enwTeathes 
itself under the pressure of the storm. Yet any one 
with an eye for the beautiful will find it hard to leave 
a sight so fair, will watch unweariedly for hours the 
gliding, curling masses as they rise, apparently in 
defiance of law, subside and rise again and yet 

Sailors often speak of an '* ugly " sea, but the 
adjective has quite another meaning to that usually 
attached to it. They do not mean that it is ugly in 
appearance, for they well know that the beauty of 
a wave is as much a part of it as is the water — it 
cannot be otherwise than beautiful, as it cannot cease 
to be wet. What they mean is a dangerous sea. 
And by ''sea" they always mean wave. A sailor 
never speaks of a ''high wave," "cross waves," 
"heavy waves" ; in fact, on board ship, except when 
passengers are getting information from officers, you 
will not hear the word "wave" mentioned at all. 


A Sack of Shakings 

It is necessary to mention this purely nautical detail 
to save constant explanation and digression. To 
return, then, to the sailor's " ugly " sea. Its ugliness 
may be due to many different causes, but in the 
result the waves do not run truly with the wind ; 
they rise unexpectedly and confusedly, changing the 
natural motion of the ship into a bewildered stagger, 
such as one will sometimes see in a horse when a 
brutal, foolish driver is beating him over the head 
and wrenching first at one rein and then the other 
without knowing himself what he wants the poor 
brute to do. It is very pitiful, too, to watch a 
gallant ship being pressed through an ugly, untrue 
sea — such, for instance, as may be met with in the 
North Atlantic with a south-west gale blowing, and 
the vessel in the midst of the Gulf Stream. The 
conflict between wind and current, all the more 
terrible for its invisibility, is deep-reaching, so deep 
that every excuse must be found for those who 
have spoken of seas running mountains high. As the 
steady, implacable thrust of the storm booms forth, 
the black breadths of water rise rebellious ; they 
would fain flow in the face of the wind, but that 
cannot be. So they rise, sullenly rise, peak-Hke, 
against their persecutor, until his might compels them 
forward against the mighty stream beneath, and their 
shattered crags and pinnacles tumble in ruinous heaps 

Even this, however, is less dangerous than that 
time — to be spoken of by those who have seen it, 
and live, with bated breath — when, rotating like some 
wheel of the gods, the tropical cyclone whirls across 



the Indian seas. Round and round blow the in- 
credibly furious winds, having a centrifugal direction 
withal, and yet the whole mighty system progresses 
in some given direction, until towards its centre there 
is a Maelstrom indeed — a space where the wind hath 
left, as it were, a funnel of calm in the world-tumult. 
And there the waves hold high revel. Heap upon 
heap the w^aters rise, without direction, without shape, 
save that of fortuitous blocks hurled skyward and 
falling again in ruin. The fountains of the great 
deep appear to be broken up, and woe to man's 
handiwork found straying there in that black 

All those who have ever " run the Easting down " 
will remember, but not all pleasurably, the great true 
sea of the roaring ''forties" or ''fifties." How, un- 
hindered in its world-encircling sweep, the premier 
wind of all comes joyously, unwaveringly, for many 
a day without a pause, while the good ship flies 
before it with every wing bearing its utmost strain. 
In keeping with the wind, the wave — the long, true 
wave of the Southern Seas, spreading to infinity on 
either hand, a gorgeous concave of blue, with its 
direction as straightly at right angles to the ship's 
track as if laid by line, and its ridge all glistening 
like a wreath of new-fallen snow under silver moon 
or golden sun. It pursues, it overtakes, rises astern 
with majestic sound as of all the war-chariots of 
Neptune ; then, easily passing beneath the buoyant 
keel, it is gone on ahead, has joined its fellows in 
their stately progress to the East. Adown its far- 
spreading shoulders stream pennons of white ; in the 

193 N 

A Sack of Shakings 

broad valley between it and the next wave the same 
bright foam creams and hisses until wherever the 
eye can rest is no longer blue but white — a 
wilderness of curdling snow just bepatched with 

The strong, exultant ship may rejoice in such a 
scene as this, but it is far otherwise with the weak- 
ling. Caught up in this irresistible march of wind 
and wave, she feels that her place is otherwhere ; 
it is not hers to strive with giants, but to abide by 
the stuff. Then do the hapless mariners in charge 
watch carefully for a time when they may lay her 
to, watch the waves' sequence, knowing that every 
third wave is greater, and leaves a broader valley of 
smooth behind it than its fellows ; while some say 
that with the third sequence of three — the ninth 
wave — these differences are at their maximum. Why ? 
Who knows ? Certain it is that some waves are 
heavier than others, and equally certain it is that 
in the case of a truly running sea these heavier seas 
appear at regularly recurrent intervals of three. 
And that is all sailors know. Sufficient too, per- 
haps, as with their weak and overladen ship they 
watch the smooth, to swing her up between two 
rolling ranges of water, and without shipping 
more than thirty or forty tons or so, heave her 
to, her head just quartering the oncoming waves, 
and all danger of being overwhelmed by them 


Curious indeed are the waves to be found over 

uneven bottoms with strong undercurrents — as, for 
instance, on the coast of Nova Scotia — and known 



as '^overfalls." Sufficiently annoying to vessels of 
large size that get among them, they are most 
dangerous to small craft. The water rises in masses 
perpendicularly, and falls a dead weight without 
apparent forward motion — a puzzling, deadly sea to 
meet when a howling gale is driving your small 
vessel across those angry waters. But the overfall 
character is common to nearly all waves raised in 
shallow seas and tidal streams. It adds to the dangers 
of navigation immensely, and although the eye must 
be charmed when from the lofty cliff we see the green- 
bosomed, hoary-shouldered wave come thundering 
shoreward, we need not expect those to greet him 
lovingly who must do so in weakness and unde- 

What of the tidal wave ; that mysterious indispen- 
sable swelling of the waters that, following the *'puU" 
of the moon, rolls round this globe of ours twice in 
each twenty-four hours, stemming the outflow of 
mighty rivers, penetrating far inland wherever access 
is available, and doing within its short lease of life 
an amount of beneficent work freely that would 
beggar the wealthiest Monarchy of the world to 
undertake if it must needs be paid for ? Mysterious 
it may well be called, since, though its passage from 
zone to zone be so swift, it is, like all other waves, 
but an undulatory movement of that portion of the 
sea momentarily influenced by the suasion of the 
planet — not, as is vulgarly supposed, the same mass 
of water vehemently carried onward for thousands 
of miles. No ; just as a tightly stretched sheet of 
calico shows an undulation if the point of a stick be 

A Sack of Shakings 

passed along beneath its surface and pressed upward 
against it, an undulation which leaves every fibre 
where it was originally, so does the whole surface 
remain in its place while the long, long wave rolls 
round the world carrying up to their moorings the 
homeward-bound- ships, sweetening mud-befouled 
tidal harbours, and giving to forlorn breadths of 
deserted shallows all the glory and vitality of the 
youthful sea. 

To meet a tidal wave at sea is in some parts of the 
watery world a grim and unforgettable experience. 
Floating upon the shining blue plain, with an indolent 
swelling of the surface just giving a cosy roll to your 
ship now and then, you suddenly see in the distance 
a ridge, a knoll of water that advances vast, silent, 
menacing. Nearer and nearer it comes, rearing its 
apparently endless curve higher and higher. There 
is no place to flee from before its face. Neither is 
there much suspense. For its pace is swift, although 
it appears so deliberate, from the illimitable grandeur 
of its extent. It is upon the ship. She behaves in 
accordance with the way she has been caught and 
her innate peculiarities. In any case, whatever her 
bulk, she is hurled forward, upward, backward, down- 
ward, as if never again could she regain an even 
keel, while her crew cling desperately to whatever 
holding-place they may have reached, lest they should 
be dashed into dead pieces. 

Some will have it that these marvellous upliftings 
of the sea-bosom are not tidal waves at all — that 
they do not belong to that normal ebb and flow of 
the ocean that owns the sway of the moon. If so, 



they would be met with more frequently than they 
are at sea, and far more disasters would be placed 
to their account. This contention seems reasonable, 
because it is well known that lonely islets such as 
St. Helena, Tristan d'Acunha, and Ascension are 
visited at irregular intervals by a succession of 
appalling waves (rollers) that deal havoc among 
the smaller shipping, and look as if they would 
overwhelm the land. The suggestion is that these 
stupendous waves are due to cosmic disturbance, 
to submarine earthquakes upheaving the ocean- 
bed and causing so vast a displacement of the ocean 
that its undulations extend for several thousands of 

As to the speed of waves, judging from all experi- 
ence, they would seem never to exceed sixteen to 
eighteen knots an hour in their hugest forms. And 
yet it is well known that they will often outstrip the 
gale that gave them birth, let it rage never so furi- 
ously. Lying peacefully rolling upon the smoothest 
of summer seas, you shall presently find, without 
any alteration in the weather, the vessel's motion 
change from its soothing roll to a sharp, irritable, and 
irritating movement. And, looking overside, there 
may be seen the forerunners of the storm that is 
raging hundreds of miles away, the hurrying waves 
that it has driven in its path. So likewise, long 
hours after a gale is over, the waves it has raised 
roll on, still reluctant to resume their levelled peace, 
and should a new gale arise in some contrary direc- 
tion, the ''old" sea, as the sailor calls it, will per- 
sist, making the striving ship's progress full of 

A Sack of Shakings 

weariness and unease to those on board. Of the 
energy of waves, of the lessons they teach, their 
immutable mutability, and other things concern- 
ing them that leap to the mind, no word can now 
be spoken, for space is spent. 



Last year it was my pleasant privilege to lay before 
the readers of the Spectator a few details upon the 
polity of a battleship, and from the amount of 
interest shown in that subject, it would seem accept- 
able to supplement it by a few more details upon 
the mechanical side. First, then, as to the ship 
herself. Complaints are often heard of the loss of 
beauty and ship-like appearance consequent upon 
the gain of combative strength in these floating 
monsters. And it cannot be denied that up till a 
few years ago in our own Navy, and at the present 
date among the cuirasses of France, the appearance 
of the vessels made such a complaint well founded 
— such ships as the Hoche and Charlemagney for 
instance, from which it may truly be said that all 
likeness to a ship has been removed. But in our 
own Navy there has been witnessed of late years a 
decided return to the handsome contour of vessels 
built, not for war, but for the peaceful pursuits of 
the merchant service. And this has so far been 
attended by the happiest results. These mighty 
ships of the Majestic class, on board of one of which 
1 am now writing, have won the unstinted praise of 
all connected with them. This means a great deal, 
for there are no more severe critics of the efforts 
of naval architects than naval officers, as would be 


A Sack of Shakings 

naturally expected. In these ships the eye is arrested 
at once by their beautiful lines, and the absence of 
any appearance of top-heaviness so painfully evident 
in ships like the Thtmderer, the Dreadnought, and the 
Admirals. Their spacious freeboard, or height from 
the water-line to the edge of the upper deck, catches 
a seaman's eye at once, for a good freeboard means 
not only a fairly dry ship, but also plenty of fresh 
air below, as well as a sense of security in heavy 
weather. It is not, however, until their testing time 
comes, in a heavy gale of wind on the wide Atlantic, 
that their other virtues appear. Then one is never 
weary of wondering at their splendid stability and 
freedom from rolling, which makes them unique 
fighting platforms under the worst weather condi- 
tions. They steer perfectly, a range of over three 
and a half degrees on either side of their course 
being sufhcient to bring down heavy censure upon 
the quartermaster. They have not Belleville boilers, 
and so enjoy almost complete immunity from break- 
downs, maintaining their speed in a manner that is 
not approached by any other men-of-war afloat. In 
addition to great economy of coal usage they have, 
for a ship of war, very large coal bunkerage. In 
fact, in this respect their qualifications are so high 
that there is danger of being disbelieved in giving 
the plain facts. On a coal consumption of 50 tons 
per day for all purposes a speed of eight knots per 
hour can be maintained for forty days. Of course, 
with each extra knot of speed the coal consumption 
increases enormously, reaching a maximum of 220 
tons a day for a speed of fifteen knots with forced 


A Battleship of To-Day 

draught. It is necessary to italicise all purposes, 
for it must always be remembered that there is 
quite a host of auxiliary engines always at work in 
these ships for the supply of electric light, ventila- 
tion, steering, distilling, &c. And this brings me to 
a most important detail of the economy of modern 
ships of war — their utter dependence for efficient 
working upon modern inventions, all highly com- 
plicated, and liable to get out of order. As, for 
instance, the lighting. It is quite true that the work 
of the ship can be carried on without electric light, 
but when one considers the bewildering ramifications 
of utterly dark passages in the bowels of these huge 
ships, and remembers how accustomed the workers 
become to the flood of light given by a host of electric 
lamps, it needs no active exercise of the imagination 
to picture the condition of things when that great 
illumination is replaced by the feeble glimmer of 
candles or colomb lights. Truly they only punctuate 
the darkness, they do not dispel it, and work is carried 
on at great risk because of its necessary haste. Then 
there is the steering. Under ordinary circumstances 
one man stands at a baby wheel upon a lofty bridge, 
whence he has a view from beam to beam of all 
that is going on, of the surrounding sea. At a 
touch of his hand the obedient monster of 150 horse- 
power, far down in the tiller-room aft, responds by 
exerting its great force upon the rudder, and the 
ship is handled with ridiculous ease. Use accustoms 
one to the marvel, and no wonder is ever evinced 
at the way in which one man can keep that 
giant of 15,000 tons so steady on her course. 


A Sack of Shakings 

But of late we have had an object-lesson upon 
the difference there is between steering by hand 
without the intervention of machinery and steering 
with its aid. In the next water-tight compartment 
forward of the tiller-room, there are four wheels, 
each 5 feet in diameter, and of great strength of 
construction. Some distance in front of these there 
is an indicator — a brass pointer moving along a 
horizontal scale marked in degrees. Forward of this 
again, but about 2 feet to port of it, there is a 
compass, and how any compass, however buttressed 
by compensators, can keep its polarity in the midst 
of such an immense assemblage of iron and steel 
furniture is almost miraculous. By the side of the 
compass is a voice-tube communicating with the 
pilot-bridge forward. To each of the wheels four 
men are allotted, sixteen in all. A quartermaster 
watches, with eyes that never remove their gaze, 
the indicator, which, actuated from the pilot-bridge 
300 feet away, tells him how many degrees of helm 
are needed, and he immediately gives his orders 
accordingly. One man watches the compass, another 
attends the voice-tube, listening intently for orders 
that may come in that way from the officer respon- 
sible for the handling of the ship. Two men also 
watch in the tiller-room for possible complications 
arising there. Total, twenty-one men for the purpose 
of steering the ship alone, or a crew equal to that 
of a sailing-ship of 2000 tons, or the deck hands of 
a steamship of 6000 tons. Yet this steering crew is 
only for one watch. Of course, this steering by hand 
is a last resource. The engines which move the 


A Battleship of To-Day 

rudder are in duplicate, and there are seven other 
stations from which they can be worked — viz., one 
on the upper bridge, one in each of the conning- 
towers, one at each steering-engine, and two others 
on different decks in the lower fore-part of the ship. 
It is certainly true that some of these wheels actuate 
the same connection, so that one break may disable 
two, or even three, wheels ; but even granting that, 
there still remains a considerable margin of chances 
against the possibility of ever being compelled to 
use the hand steering-gear. Those awful weapons 
of war, the barbette guns, may also be handled 
by manual labour, but it is instructive to compare 
the swift ease with which they, their containing 
barbettes (each w^eighing complete 250 tons), their 
huge cartridges of cordite and 850 lb. shells, are 
handled by hydraulic power, and the same processes 
carried out by hand. And so with all other serious 
operations, such as w^eighing anchor, hoisting steam- 
boats, &c. The masses of w^eight to be dealt with 
are so great that the veriest novice may see at one 
glance that to be compelled to use hand labour 
for their manipulation in actual warfare w'ould be 
equivalent to leaving the ship helpless, at the mercy 
of another ship of any enemy's not so situated. Yes, 
these ships are good, so good that it is a pity they 
are not better. In the opinion of those best qualified 
to know, they have still a great deal too much useless 
top-hamper — nay, worse than useless, because in 
action its destruction by shell-fire and consequent 
mass of debris would not only mean the needless 
loss of many lives, but would pile up a mountain of 


A Sack of Shakings 

obstacles in the way of the ship's efficient working. 
Also, the amount of unnecessary w'oodwork with 
which these vessels are cumbered is very great, con- 
stituting a danger so serious that on going into 
action it would be imperative to put a tremendous 
strain upon the crew in tearing it from its positions 
and flinging it overboard. Upper works of course 
there must be, but they should be reduced to their 
simplest and most easily removable expression, and 
on no account should there be, as there now is, any 
battery that in action would be unworkable, and 
consequently only so much lumber in the way. 
Remembering the enormous cost of the flotilla of 
boats carried by these ships, three of them being 
steamers of high speed, it comes as somewhat of a 
shock to learn that upon going into action one of 
the first things necessary would be to launch them 
all overboard and let them go secured together so 
that they might possibly be picked up again, although 
not easily by the ship to which they belonged. It is 
only another lurid glimpse of the prospective horror 
of modern naval warfare. There will be no means 
of escape in case of defeat and sinking, for nothing 
will be left to float. Finally, after all criticisms have 
been made it remains to be said that it is much to 
be regretted that we have not double the number 
of these splendid battleships furnished with boilers 
that can be relied upon as the present boilers can. 
Other ships of their stamp are being built, but with 
Belleville boilers, of which the best that can be said 
is that our most dangerous prospective foe is using 
them exclusively also. But she, again, is rushing 


A Battleship of To-Day 

blindly upon certain disaster in the direction of 
accumulating enormous superstructures which are 
certain to be destroyed early in any engagement, 
and being destroyed will leave the ship a helpless 
wreck. We have shown our wisdom by reducing 
these dreadfully disabling erections, and shall yet 
reduce them more. Why not go a step farther, and 
refuse longer to load our engineers with the horrible 
incubus of boilers that have not a single workable 
virtue but that of raising steam quickly, and have 
every vice that a vehicle for generating steam can 
possibly possess ? 



When Nathaniel D. Troop (of Jersey City, U.S.A.), 
presently A.B. on board the British ship Belle^ 
solemnly announced his intention of investing in a 
monkey the next time old Daddy the Bumboatman 
came alongside, there was a breathless hush, some- 
thing like consternation, amongst his shipmates. It 
was in Bombay and eventide, and all we of the fore- 
mast hands were quietly engaged upon our supper (tea 
is the name for the corresponding meal ashore), with 
great content resting upon us, for bananas, rooties, 
duck -eggs and similar bumboat- bought luxuries 
abounded among us. So that the chunk of in- 
durated buffalo that had resisted all assaults upon 
it at dinner-time lay unmolested at the bottom of 
the beef-kid, no one feeling sufficiently interested 
to bestow a swear on it. 

For some time after Nat's pronouncement nobody 
spoke. The cool breeze whispered under the fo'c's'le 
awning, the Bramley-kites wheeled around whistling 
hungrily and casting their envious watchful eyes 
upon our plates, and somewhere in the distance a 
dinghy-wallah intoned an interminable legend to his 
fellow-sufferers that sounded like the high-pitched 
drone of bees on a sultry afternoon among the 


Nat's Monkey 

flowers. Then up and spake John de Baptiss : 
'' Waffor, Nat ? Wah we ben dween t'yo. Foh de 
Lawd sake, sah, ef yew gwain bring Macaque 'bord 
dis sheep you'se stockin trubble' nough ter fill er 
mighty long hole." "'Sides," argued Cockney Jem, 
"'taint 'sif we ain't got a monkey. 'Few wornt any 
monkey tricks played on us wot price th' kid 'ere," 
and he pointed to me, 

" Naow jess yew hole on half a minnit," drawled 
Nat, "'relse yew'll lose your place. Djer ever know 
me ter make trubble sense I ben abord thishyer 
limejuice dog-basket ? Naw, I've a learnt manners, 
/ hev, 'n don't never go stickin' my gibbie in another 
man's hash I don't. But in kase this kermunity 
sh'd feel anyways hurt at my perposal, lemme 'splain. 
I s'pose I ain't singler in bein' ruther tired er these 
blame hogs forrad here. Hogs is all right, ez hogs, 
but they don't make parler pets wuth a cent. N'wen 
I finds one biggern a porpuss a wallerin' round in 
my bunk 'n rootin' 'mong the clean straw my bed's 
stuffed with, its kiender bore in erpon me that fresh 
pork fer dinner's wut I ben pinin' fer a long time. 
Naow I know thet I kin teach a monkey in about 
tew days 'nough ter make him scare the very chidlins 
er them hogs inter sossidge meat if they kum in- 
vestigatin' where he's on dooty. 'N so I calkerlate 
to be a sorter bennyfactor ter my shipmates, though 
it seems 'sif yew ain't overnabove grateful." 

By this time the faces of Nat's audience had lost 
the look of apprehension they had worn at first. 
Everybody had an account to settle with those pigs, 


A Sack of Shakings 

which swarmed homelessly about the fore part of 
the deck, and never missed an opportunity of enter- 
ing our domicile during our absence, doing such 
acts and deeds there as pigs are wont to perform. 
As they were a particular hobby of the skipper's 
we were loth to deal with them after their iniquities, 
the more so as she was a particularly comfortable 
ship. And if Nat's idea should turn out to be a 
good one we should all be gainers. Consequently 
when Daddy appeared in the morning Nat greeted 
him at once with the question, *^ Yew got monkey ? " 
Promptly came the stereotyped answer, ^' No, Sahib. 
Eberyting got. Monkey no got. Melican war 
make monkey bery dear." However, as soon as 
Daddy was persuaded that a monkey really was 
desired he undertook to supply one, and sure enough 
next morning he brought one with him, a sinister- 
looking beast about as large as a fox-terrier. He 
was secured by a leathern collar and a dog-chain 
to the fife-rail of the foremast for the time, and one 
or two of the men amused themselves by teasing 
him until he was almost frantic. Presently I came 
round where he was lurking, forgetting for the time 
all about his presence. Seeing his opportunity, he 
sprang on to my shoulder and bit me so severely 
that I carry his marks now. Smarting with the pain 
I picked up a small piece of coal and flung it at 
him with all the strength I could muster. Unfortu- 
nately for me it hit him on the head and made it 
bleed, for which crime I got well rope's-ended by 
Nat. And besides that I made an enemy of that 


Nat's Monkey 


monkey for the rest of his time on board — many 
months — an enemy who never lost a chance of doing 
me an ill turn. 

He took to his master at once, and was also on 
nodding terms with one or two of the other men, 
but with the majority he was at open war. Nat kept 
him chained up near his bunk, only taking him out 
for an airing at intervals, and at once commenced 
to train him to go for the pigs. But one day Nat 
laid in a stock of eggs and fruit, stowing them as 
usual on the shelf in his bunk. We were very busy 
all the morning on deck, so that I believe hardly a 
chance was obtained by any one of getting below for 
a smoke. When dinner-time came Nat went straight 
to his bunk to greet his pet, but he was nowhere to 
be seen. The state of that bed though was some- 
thing to remember. Jocko had been amusing him- 
self bv trying to make an omelette, and the debris 
of two dozen eggs w^as strewn and plastered over 
the bunk, intermingled with crushed bananas, torn 
up books, feathers out of Nat's swell pillow, and 
several other things. While Nat was ransacking his 
memory for some language appropriate to the occa- 
sion, a veil arose from the other side of the fore- 
castle where Paddy Finn, a Liverpool Irishman 
of parts, had just discovered his week's whack of 
sugar and the contents of a slush-pot pervading 
all the contents of his chest. Other voices soon 
joined in the chorus as further atrocities were dis- 
covered, until the fo'c's'le was like Bedlam broken 


209 O 

A Sack of Shakings 

" Pigs is it ye'd be afther complainin' of, ye 
blatherin' ould omadhaun. The divil a pig that 
iver lived ud be afther makin' sich a hell's delight 
ov a man's dunnage as this. Not a blashted skirrick 
have oi left to cover me nakidness wid troo yure 
blood relashin. Only let me clap hands on him 
me jule, thet's all, ye dhirty ould orgin - grinder 

High above all the riot rose the wail of Paddy 
Finn as above, until the din grew so great that I 
fled dismayed, in mortal terror lest I should be 
brought into the quarrel somehow. It was well that 
I did so, for presently there was what sailors call a 
regular '^plug-mush," a free fight wherein the guid- 
ing principle is 'Svherever you see a head, hit it." 
The battle was brief if fierce, and its results were so 
far good that uproarious laughter soon took the 
place of the pandemonium that had so recently 
reigned. Happily I had not brought the dinner in 
when the riot began, so that still there was some 
comfort left. Making haste I supplied the food, and 
soon they were all busy with it, their dinner hour 
being nearly gone. The punishment of the mis- 
creant was unavoidably deferred for want of time 
to look for him, for he had vanished like a dream. 
But while we ate a sudden storm of bad language 
rose on deck. Hurrying out to see what fresh 
calamity had befallen we found the nigger cook 
flinging himself about in a frenzy of rage, while 
h slf-way up the main-stay, well out of everybody's 
reach, sat ]o ko with a fowl that he had snatched 

2 lO 

Nat's Monkey 

out of the galley while the cook's back was turned, 
and was now carefully tearing into fragments. Rush- 
ing to the stay, the men shook it till the whole 
mainmast vibrated, but the motion didn't appear to 
trouble the monkey. Holding the fowl tightly in 
one hand he bounded up into the main-top and 
thence to the mizen-topmast stay, where for the time 
he had to be left in peace. 

As soon as knock-off time came a hunt was or- 
ganised. It was a very exciting affair while it 
lasted, but not only were the men tired, but that 
monkey could spring across open spaces like a bird, 
and catching him was an impossible task. The at- 
tempt was soon given up, therefore, and the rest 
of the evening after supper devoted to repairing 
damages. For the next three days she was a lively 
ship. That imp of darkness was like the devil, he 
was everywhere. Like a streak of grey lightning he 
would slide down a stay, snatch up something just 
laid down, and away aloft again before the robbed 
one had realised what had happened. All sorts of 
traps were laid for him, but he was far too wise to 
be taken in any trap that ever was devised. I went 
in terror of him night and day, for I feared that now 
he was free he w^ould certainly not omit to repay me 
for his broken pate. And yet it was I who caught 
him. For the moment I had forgotten all about 
him, when coming from aloft and dropping lightly 
with my bare feet upon the bottom of one of the 
upturned boats on the roof of our house, I saw 
something stirring in the folds of the main-topmast 


A Sack of Shakings 

staysail that was lying there loosely huddled together. 
Leaping upon the heap of canvas I screamed for 
help, bringing half-a-dozen men to the spot in a 
twinkling. Not without some severe bites, the 
rascal was secured, and by means of a stout belt 
round his waist effectually prevented from getting 
adrift again. I looked to see him summarily put to 
death, but no one seemed to think his atrocious be- 
haviour merited any worse punishment than a sound 
thrashing except the cook and steward, and they 
being our natural enemies were of course unheeded. 
The fact is Jocko had, after his first performance, 
confined his attentions to the cabin and galley, where 
he had done desperate damage and made the two 
darkies lead a most miserable life. This conduct of 
his I believe saved his life, as those two functionaries 
were cordially detested by the men for many reasons. 
At any rate he was spared, and for some time led a 
melancholy life chained up on the forecastle head 
during the day, and underneath it at night. Mean- 
time we had sailed from Bombay and arrived at Con- 
conada, where the second mate bought a monkey, a 
pretty tame little fellow that hadn't a bit of vice in 
him. He was so docile that when we got to sea 
again he was allowed to have the run of the ship. 
Petted by everybody, he never got into any mischief, 
but often used to come forward and sit at a safe 
distance from Jocko, making queer grimaces and 
chcitterings at him, but alw^ays mighty careful not to 
get too near. Jocko never responded, but sat stolidly 
like a monkey of wood until the little fellow strolled 


Nat's Monkey 

away, when he would spring up and tear at his 
chain, making a guttural noise that sounded as much 
like an Arab cursing as anything ever I heard. So 
little Tip went on his pleasant way, only meeting 
with one small mishap for a long time. He was 
sitting on deck one sunny afternoon with his back 
against the coamings of the after-hatch, his little • 
round head just visible above its edge. One of the 
long-legged raw^-boned roosters we had got in Con- 
conada was prowling near on the never - ending 
quest for grub. Stalking over the hatch he suddenly 
caught sight of this queer little grey knob sticking 
up. He stiffened himself, craned his neck forward, 
and then drawing well back dealt it a peck like a 
miniature pick-axe falling. Well, that little monkey 
was more astonished than ever I saw an animal in 
my life. He fairly screamed with rage while the 
rooster stood as if petrified with astonishment at 
the strange result of his investigations. 

Owing to the close watch kept upon Jocko he led 
a blameless life for months. Apparently reconciled 
to his captivity he gradually came to be regarded as 
a changed animal who had repented and forsaken 
his evil ways for life. But my opinion of him never 
changed. It was never asked and I knew better than 
to offer it, but there was a lurking devil in his sleepy 
eyes that assured me if ever he got loose again his 
previous achievements would pale into insignificance 
before the feats of diabolical ingenuity he would 
then perform. Still the days and weeks rolled by 
uneventfully until we were well into the fine weather 


A Sack of Shakings 

to the north'ard of the Line in the Atlantic. We 
had been exceptionally favoured by the absence of 
rain, and owing to the exertions of the second mate, 
who was an enthusiast over his paint-work, her 
bulwarks within and her houses were a perfectly 
dazzling white, with a satiny sheen like enamel. In 
fact I heard him remark with pardonable pride that 
he'd never seen the paint look so well in all his seven 
voyages as second of the Belle. Tenderly, as if it 
were his wife's face, he would go over that paint-work 
even in his watch below, with bits of soft rag and 
some clean fresh water, wiping off every spot of 
defilement as soon as it appeared. Tarring down 
was accomplished without a spot or a smear upon 
the paint, and the decks having been holystoned and 
varnished, the second mate now began to breathe 
freely. No more dirty work remained to be done, 
and he would have a lot more time to devote to his 
beloved white paint. We had been slipping along 
pretty fast to the north'ard, and one afternoon the 
old man had all hands up to bend our winter suit 
of sails. Every mother's son of them were aloft 
except me, and I was busy about the mainmast 
standing by to attend to the running gear, as I was 
ordered from above. As they had hoisted all the 
sails up before they had started aloft, they were 
there a long time, as busy as bees trying to get the 
job finished. At last all was ready and down they 
came. One of them went forrard for something, 
and immediately raised an outcry that brought all 
hands rushing to the spot, thinking that the ship 


Nat's Monkey 

was on fire or something. The sight they saw was 
a paralysing one to a sailor. On both sides of the 
bulwarks and the lower panels of the house were 
great smears and splashes of Stockholm tar, while 
all along the nice blue covering-board the mess was 
indescribable. With one accord everybody shouted 

''That monkey." Yes, as they spoke there was 

a dull thud and down from aloft fell a huge oakum 
wad saturated with tar. They looked up and there 
he sat, an infernal object, hardly distinguishable for 
a monkey, being smothered from head to tail-end 
with the thick glutinous stuff. But his white teeth 
gleamed and his wicked eye twinkled merrily as he 
thought of the heavenly time he'd been having, a 
recompense for what must have seemed years of 
waiting. Too late, the men now remembered that 
the tar barrel, its head completely out, had been left 
up-ended by the windlass where it had been placed 
for convenience during tarring down. It was there 
still, but leading from it in all directions were streams 
of tar where Jocko had dragged away the dripping 
wads he had fished out of its black depths. I was 
never revengeful, but if I had been I should have felt 
sorry for the second mate, my old tyrant, now. He 
drooped and withered like a scarlet runner under 
the first sharp frost. Not a word did he say, but he 
looked as if all the curses in every tongue that ever 
were spoken were pouring over his brain in a flood. 
Pursuit of the m^onkey was out of the question. 
Clambering over the newly tarred rigging was bad 
enough when done with all care, but in a chase, 


A Sack of Shakings 

especially over places where it had been freshly 
anointed by the fugitive, we should have had all 
hands captured like flies on a gummed string. They 
all stood and glared at the mess like men not know- 
ing how to adjust their minds to this new condition 
of things, nor, when the skipper and mate came 
forrard to see what was the matter, did they con- 
tribute any words good, bad, or indifferent. Ap- 
parently they would have remained there till they 
dropped, fascinated by the horrible sight, but suddenly 
piercing screams aft startled everybody. Jocko had 
crept down the mizen rigging and pounced upon 
poor little Tip, who was delicately combing himself 
(he was as daintily clean as a cat) on the after hatch. 
And now Jocko was perched on the cro'jack yard 
vigorously wiping his tar-drenched fur with Tip as 
if he had been a dry wad. The second mate started 
from his lethargy and sprang aloft to the rescue 
of his screaming pet with an agility scarcely inferior 
to that of Jocko. Rage seemed to give him energy, 
for presently he pressed Jocko so hard (he let poor 
little Tip go as soon as he saw his pursuer) that he 
ran out along the mizen topsail brace, and, balanc- 
ing himself for a moment, covered his eyes with 
his hands and sprang into the sea. Bobbing up 
like a cork, he struck out away from the ship which 
was only just moving, but in less than five minutes 
he repented his rashness and swam back. A line 
was flung to him, he promptly seized it and was 
at once a captive again. The men were so impressed 
by his prowess that they refused to allow the second 


Nat's Monkey ^ 

mate to touch him, nor did any of them even beat 
him lest they should have bad luck. But they re- 
placed the chafed-through ring he had broken by 
a massive connecting-link, and when Jamrach's 
man came aboard in London Jocko was sold to 
him for five shillings. Tip went to the Crystal 
Palace and met a worse fate. 



Sportsmen of ample means and unlimited leisure 
often deplore the shrinkage which goes on at an 
ever-accelerating rate of such free hunting-grounds 
as still remain. Owing to the wonderful facilities 
for travel allied to increased wealth, they foresee, 
not, perhaps, the extinction of the great wild animals 
which alone they consider worthy of their high 
prowess, but such close preservation of them in 
the near future that the free delight of the hunter 
will surely disappear. Therefore it may be con- 
sidered opportune to point out from the vantage 
ground of personal experience some aspects of sport 
at sea which will certainly not suffer by comparison 
with any hunting on land, no matter from what 
point we regard it. It will readily be conceded 
that one of the chief drawbacks to the full enjoy- 
ment of sport in wild lands is the large amount of 
personal suffering entailed upon the hunters by 
evil climates and transport difficulties. It is all 
very well to say that these things are part of the 
programme, and that taking the rough with the 
smooth is of the very essence of true sportsman- 
ship. That need not be disputed while denying 
that there is anything attractive in the idea of be- 
coming a permanent invalid from malaria or being 
harassed to the verge of madness by the unceasing 


Big Game at Sea 

oversight of a gang of wily children of nature 
saturated with the idea that the white maniac is 
delivered over to them as a prey by ''the gods 
of things as they are." The fascination of sport 
consists in the dangers of the chase, the successful 
use of ''shikar," the elation of conscious superiority 
over the lords of the brute creation, and not, as 
some dull souls would assert, in the gratification 
of primitive instincts of blood-lust, or the exercise 
of cruelty to animals for its own sake. Neither 
does it consist in wading across fetid swamps, 
groping through steaming forests, or toiling with 
leathern tongue and aching bones over glowing 
sands, a prey to all the plagues of Egypt aug- 
mented by nearly every other ill that flesh is heir 
to. No ; few of us need persuading that any of 
these horrors are the unavoidable necessary con- 
comitants of sport, they are endured because to 
all appearance any hunting worthy the name is 
not to be obtained apart from them. 

From all such miseries sport at sea is free. A 
well-appointed yacht, built not for speed but for 
comfort, need not be luxurious to afford as satis- 
factory a " hunting-box " as any sportsman could 
reasonably desire. And for the question of cost — 
it may be high enough to satisfy the craving for 
squandering felt by the most wealthy spendthrift, 
or so low as to become far cheaper than a hunting 
expedition to Africa or the Rockies. For a success- 
ful sporting voyage a sailing vessel, or at most an 
auxiliary screw-steamer of low power, is best, for 
the great game of the ocean is full of alarms, and 


A Sack of Shakings 

must needs be approached with the utmost silence 
and circumspection. As for the question of equip- 
ment, it seems hardly necessary to say that every- 
thing should be of the very best, but not by any 
means of the most expensive quality procurable. 
All such abominations as harpoon-guns, bombs, &c., 
should be strictly barred, the object being sport, 
not slaughter. Given sufficient outlay, with the 
resources of science now at the purchaser's dis- 
posal, it is quite possible to reduce whaling, for 
instance, to as tame an affair as a hand - fed phea- 
sant battue or tame-rabbit coursing, neither of which 
can surely by any stretch of courtesy be called sport. 
The old-fashioned hand harpoons, the long, slender 
lances that, except for excellence of workmanship 
and material, are essentially the same as used by 
the first followers of the vast sea-mammals, these 
should be the sportsman's weapons still if he would 
taste in its integrity the primitive delight of the 
noblest of created beings in the assertion of his 
birthright, ^' Dominion over the fish of the sea and 
over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and 
over all the earth." 

The best type of vessel for a sporting cruise at 
sea is what is known to seamen as a '' barquentine," 
a vessel, that is to say, of some 250 tons register, 
with three masts, square-rigged at the fore — after 
the style of the well-known Sunbeam. In her davits 
she should carry three whaleboats, such as the 
Americans of New Bedford or Rhode Island know 
so well how to build, the handsomest and most sea- 
worthy of all boats ever built. The whaleboats built 


Big Game at Sea 

in Scotland, though strong and serviceable, are less 
elegant and handy, being more fitted for rough 
handling among ice-floes, into which rough neigh- 
bourhoods the sea-sportsman need never go — should 
not go, in fact, for the best display of his powers. 
The whale-line, made in the old whaling ports of 
New England — tow-line as it is locally termed — 
cannot be beaten. It possesses all the virtues. Light, 
silkv, and of amazing strength, it is a perfect 
example of what rope should be, and is as much 
superior to the unkind, harsh hemp-line of our 
own islands as could well be imagined. From the 
same place should be obtained the services of a few 
whaling experts, accustomed, as no other seafarers 
are, to the chase of the sperm-whale, the noblest of 
all sea-monsters. Advice as to fishing-tackle would 
be out of place, except the general remark that, as 
in the deep seas the angler will meet with the 
doughtiest opponent of his skill the ocean con- 
tains, he must needs lay in a stock of tackle of the 
very strongest and best. Tarpon fishing is a fairly 
good test of the trustworthiness of gear, but whoso 
meets the giant albacore in mid-ocean, and over- 
comes him, will have vanquished a fish to which 
the tarpon is but as a seven-pound trout to a lordly 
salmon. All the appliances known to naturalists for 
the capture and preservation of the smaller habi- 
tants of the deep sea ought to be carried, for, 
although not strictly sport, this work is deeply 
interesting and useful, besides alfordnig a pleasant 
variety of occupation. 

But, passing on to the actual conditions of conflict, 


A Sack of Shakings 

let us suppose the sportsman cruising in the North 
Atlantic between the Cape Verde Islands and the 
West Indies — a wide range, truly, but no part of it 
barren of the highest possibilities for pleasure. A 
school of sperm whales is sighted, the vessel is care- 
fully manceuvred for the weather-gage of them, and 
this being obtained, the boats are softly lowered, sail 
is set, and, with the fresh trade-wind, away they go 
leaping to leeward. The utmost precaution against 
noise must be taken, because the natural susceptibility 
of the whale to sound is as delicate as the receiver 
of a telephone. No amount of oral instruction would 
here be of any avail without long experience, which, 
since it can be hired, there is no need to waste time 
and patience in acquiring. Assuming, therefore, that 
the preliminary difficulty of approach to the sensi- 
tive monsters has been overcome, and there remains 
but a few fathoms of rapidly lessening distance 
between the boat and the unconscious whale, who 
could satisfactorily describe the sensations crowded 
into those few remaining moments of absolute quiet, 
the tension of expectation, the uncertainty of the 
result of the approaching conflict ? The object of 
attack is the mightiest of living animals, he is in 
his own element, to which the assailant is but a 
visitor on sufferance, and he may retaliate in so 
fierce and tremendous a fashion that no amount of 
skill, courage, or energy shall suffice to protect the 
aggressor from his fury. But there is no thought 
of drawing back, the swift-gliding boat rushes high 
up on to the broad bank of flesh, and with a long- 
pent-up yell the harpoon is hurled. It enters the 


Big Game at Sea 

black mass noiselessly, the weight of its pole bends 
the soft iron shaft over as the attached line stretches 
out, and as the boat slowly, so slowly, backs away, the 
leviathan, amazed and infuriated, thrashes the quiet 
sea into masses of hissing foam, while the thunder 
of his blows resounds like the uproar of a distant 
cannonade. At this time certain necessary re- 
arrangements, such as furling and stowing sail, make 
it impossible, even if it were wise, to approach the 
indignant whale, and as a general thing by the time 
these preparations are complete he has sought the 
shelter of the depths beneath, taking out flake after 
flake of the neatly coiled line. With ordinary care, 
especially where only one boat is engaged, it would 
seldom happen that all the line would run out, and 
the game be lost. Usually, after an interval of about 
twenty minutes, during which the line is slacked 
away as slowly and grudgingly as possible, it is felt 
to give, and the slack must be hauled in with the 
utmost smartness, a sharp look-out being kept mean- 
while upon the surrounding surface for a sudden 
white glare beneath — the cavity of the whale's throat, 
as he comes bounding to the surface with his vast 
jaws gaping wider than a barn-door. It is at this 
time that the true excitement, the joy of battle, 
begins. For in most cases the huge animal has 
come to fight, and being in his turn the aggressor, 
his enemies must exert all their skill in boatsmanship, 
preserve all their coolness and watchfulness, since a 
mistake in tactics or loss of presence of mind may 
mean the instant destruction of the boat, if not 
the sudden and violent death of some of her crew. 


A Sack of Shakings 


As a general rule, however, after a few savage 
rushes avoided by wary manoeuvring on the part t 
of the hunters, the whale starts off to windward 
at his best speed (from twelve to fourteen knots 
an hour), towing the boat or boats after him with 
the greatest ease. This is a most exhilarating ex- 
perience. For the mighty steed, ploughing his 
strenuous way through the waves, seems the living 
embodiment of force, and yet he is, as it were, J 
harnessed to his exulting foes, compelled to take 
them with him in spite of his evident desire to 
shake himself free. While he goes at his best speed 
a near approach to him is manifestly impossible ; 
but, vast as his energies are, the enormous mass of 
his own body carried along so rapidly soon tires 
him, and he slows down to five or six knots. Then 
all hands, except the one in charge and the helms- | 
man, ''tail on" to the line, and do their best to 
haul up alongside the whale. The steersman sheers 
the boat clear of his labouring flukes as she comes 
close to him, and then allows her to point inward 
towards his broad flank, while the lance- wielder seeks 
a vulnerable spot wherein to plunge his long, slender 
weapon. It is of little use to dart the lance as the 
harpoon is flung ; such an action is far more likely 
to goad the whale into a new exhibition of energy 
than to do him any disabling injury. Being at such 
close quarters, it is far more sportsmanlike, as well 
as effectual, to thrust the lance calmly and steadily 
into the huge mass of flesh so near at hand. If the 
aim has been well taken — say, just abaft and below 
the pectoral fin — more than one home-thrust will 


Big Game at Sea 

hardly be needed, even in a whale of the largest 
size, and a careful watch must be kept upon the 
spout-hole for the first sign of blood discolouring 
the monster's breath. For that is evidence un- 
mistakable of the beginning of the end. It shows 
that some vital part has been pierced, and although 
the whale-fishers always continue their '' pumping " 
with the lance up to the very verge of disaster, once 
the whale has begun to spout blood it is quite un- 
necessary to continue the assault. Still, at this 
stage of the proceedings the primitive instincts are 
usually fully aroused, and nothing seems to satisfy 
them but persistent fury of attack, until the actual 
commencement of the tremendous death-agony or 
''flurry" of the noble beast gives even the most 
excited hunter warning that it is time to draw off 
and endeavour to keep clear of the last Titanic 
convulsions of the expiring monster. No other 
created being ever furnishes such a display of 
energy. Involuntarily one compares it with the 
awful manifestations of the earthquake, the volcano, 
or the cyclone. And when at last the great creature 
yields up the dregs of his once amazing vitality, 
no one possessing a spark of imagination can fail 
to be conscious of an under-current of compunc- 
tion mingling with the swelling triumph of such a 

But the seeker after big sea-game should attack 
the rorqual if he would see sport indeed. For this 
agile monster has such a reputation for almost super- 
natural cunning that even if he were as valuable as 
he really is valueless commercially, it is highly doubt- 

225 P 

A Sack of Shakings 

ful if he would ever be molested. As it is, all the 
tribe are chartered libertines, since no whaleman is 
likely to risk the loss of a boat's gear for the barren 
honour of conquest. And not only so, but the 
rorquals, whether ''fin-back," ''sulphur-bottom," or 
"blue-back," as well as the "hump-back" and 
grampus, make it a point of honour to sink when 
dead, unlike the " cachalot " or " Bowhead," who 
float awash at first, but ever more buoyantly as the 
progress of decay within the immense abdominal 
cavity generates an accumulating volume of gas. Any 
old whaleman would evolve in the interests of sport 
no end of dodges for dealing with the wily rorqual, 
such as a collection of strongly attached bladders 
affixed to the line to stay his downward rush, short 
but broad-barbed harpoons, to get a better hold 
upon the thin coating of blubber, &c. In this kind 
of whaling there is quite sufficient danger to make 
the sport exciting in the highest degree. Not, how- 
ever, from the attack of the animal hunted, but 
because his evolutions in the effort to escape are 
so marvellously vivacious that only the most expert 
and cool-headed boatsmanship can prevent a sudden 
severance of the nexus betw^een boat and crew. A 
splendid day's sport can be obtained with a school 
of blackfish. Although seldom exceeding a ton and 
a half in weight, these small whales are quite vigorous 
enough to make the chase of them as lively an 
episode as the most enthusiastic hunter could wish, 
especially if two or even three are harpooned one 
after the other on a single line, as the whalers' 
custom is. The sensation of being harnessed as it 


Big Game at Sea 

were to a trio of monsters, each about 25 feet long, 
and 8 feet in girth, every one anxious to flee in a 
different direction at the highest speed he can muster, 
and in their united gambols making the sea boil like 
a pot, is one that, once experienced, is never likely 
to be forgotten. The mere memory of that mad 
frolic over the heaving bosom of the bright sea 
makes the blood leap to the face, makes the nerves 
twitch, and the heart lon^ to be awav from the 
placid round of everyday life upon the bright free 
wave again. Even a school of porpoises, in default 
of nobler game, can furnish a lively hour or two, 
especially if they be of a fair size, say up to three 
or four hundredweight each. But of a truth there 
need be no fear of a lack of game. The swift passage 
from port to port made by passenger vessels is apt 
to leave the voyager with the impression that the 
sea is a barren waste, but such an idea is w^holly 
false. Even the sailing-ships, bound though they 
may be to make the shortest possible time between 
ports, are compelled by failure of wind to see 
enough of the everyday life of the sea-population 
to know better than that, and whoso gives himself 
up to the glamour of sea-study, making no haste to 
rush from place to place, but leisurely loitering 
along the wide plains of ocean, shall find each day 
a new world unfolding itself before his astonished 
eyes, a world of marvels, infinitely small, as w^ell as 
wondrous great — from the thousand and one miracles 
that go to make up the ^' Plankton " to the ante- 
diluvian whale. 

Fishing in its more heroic phases is obtainable 


A Sack of Shakings 

in deep-sea cruising as nowhere else. The hungry 
sailor, perched upon the flying jib-boom end, drops 
his line, baited with a fluttering fragment of white 
rag, and watches it with eager eyes as it skips from 
crest to crest of the foam-tipped wavelets, brushed 
aside by the advancing hull of his ship. And 
although his ideas are wholly centred upon dinner — 
something savoury, to replace the incessant round 
of salt beef and rancid pork — he cannot help but 
feel the zest of sport when upward to his clumsy 
lure come rushing eagerly dolphin, bonito, or skip- 
jack. But if — putting all lesser flsh to flight — the 
mighty albacore leaps majestically at his bait, pru- 
dence compels him to withdraw from the unequal 
contest ; he knows that he stands not the remotest 
chance of hauling such a huge trophy up to his 
lofty perch, or of holding him there, should he be 
able to get a grip of him. To the scientific angler, 
however, equipped with the latest resources of 
fishing-tackle experts, and able to devote all the 
manipulation of his vessel to the capture of such a 
trophy, the fishing of the albacore would be the 
acme of all angling experiences. Good sport can 
be got out of a school of large dolphin or bonito, 
their vigorous full-blooded strife being a revelation 
to those who only know the lordly salmon or skittish 
trout, but the albacore is the supreme test of the 
angler's ability. Shark-fishing is very tame after it. 
For the shark, though powerful, has none of the 
dash and energy which characterise the albacore, 
and would soon be an object of scorn to a fisher- 
man who had succeeded in catching the monarch 


Big Game at Sea 

of the mackerel tribe. But if the fisherman, cruising 
near the confines of the Caribbean Sea, should 
come across one of those nightmares known as 
alligator-guards or devil-fish, a species of ray often 
one hundred and twenty feet in area, he would 
find a new sensation in its chase and capture, 
besides being the possessor of such a marine speci- 
men as is at present lacking to any museum in 
the world. 

And this brings the reflection, which may fittingly 
draw this article to a close, that not the least of 
the delights which such a cruise must bring to 
one fortunate enough to enjoy it would be the 
incalculable service rendered to marine natural his- 
tory. This branch of science offers an almost 
illimitable field to the student. It is nearly a new 
world awaiting its Columbus, and it is not difficult 
to foresee that before very long it will have found 
its votaries among men of wealth, leisure, and 
energy, delighted to enter into the joy of a happy 
hunting-ground of boundless extent and inexhaus- 
tible fecundity. 



Night was unfolding her wings over the quiet sea. 
Purple, dark and smooth, the circling expanse of 
glassy stillness met the sky rim all round in an 
unbroken line, like the edge of some cloud-towering 
plateau, inaccessible to all the rest of the world. A 
few lingering streaks of fading glory laced the western 
verge, reflecting splashes of subdued colour half-way 
across the circle, and occasionally catching with 
splendid but momentary effect the rounded shoulder 
of an almost imperceptible swell. Their departure 
was being noted with wistful eyes by a little company 
of men and one woman, who, without haste and a 
hushed solemnity as of mourners at the burial of a 
dear one, were leaving their vessel and bestowing 
themselves in a small boat which lay almost motion- 
less alongside. There was no need for haste, for the 
situation had been long developing. The brig was 
an old one, whose owner was poor and unable to 
spare sufficient from her scanty earnings for her 
proper upkeep. So she had been gradually going 
from bad to worse, not having been strongly built 
of hard wood at first, but pinned together hastily 
by some farmer-shipbuilder-fisherman up the Bay of 
Fundy, mortgaged strake by strake, like a suburban 
villa, and finally sold by auction for the price of the 
timber in her. Still, being a smart model and newly 


A Sea Change 

painted, she looked rather attractive when Captain 
South first saw her lying in lonely dignity at an 
otherwise deserted quay in the St. Katharine's Docks. 
Poor man, the command of her meant so much to 
him. Long out of employment, friendless and poor, 
he had invested a tiny legacy, just fallen to his wife, 
in the vessel as the only means whereby he could 
obtain command of even such a poor specimen of 
a vessel as the Dorothea. And the shrewd old man 
who owned her drove a hard bargain. For the small 
privilege of the skipper carrying his wife with him 
50s. per month was deducted from the scanty wage 
at first agreed upon. But in spite of these drawbacks 
the anxious master felt a pleasant glow of satisfaction 
thrill him as he thought that soon he would be 
once more afloat, the monarch of his tiny realm, and 
free for several peaceful months from the harassing 
uncertainties of shore-life. 

In order to avoid expense he lived on board while 
in dock, and made himself happily busy rigging up 
all sorts of cunning additions to the little cuddy, 
with an eye to the comfort of his wife. While thus 
engaged came a thunderclap, the first piece of bad 
news. The Dorothea was chartered to carry a cargo 
of railway iron and machinery to Buenos Ayres. 
Had he been going alone the thing would have 
annoyed him, but he would have got over that with 
a good old-fashioned British grow^l or so. But with 
Mary on board — the thought was paralysing. For 
there is only one cargo that tries a ship more than 
railway metal, copper ore badly stowed. Its effect 
upon a staunch steel-built ship is to make her motion 


A Sack of Shakings 

abominable — to take all the sea-kindness out of her. 
A wooden vessel, even of the best build, burdened 
with those rigid lengths of solid metal, is like a living 
creature on the rack, in spite of the most careful 
stowage. Every timber in her complains, every 
bend and strake is wrenched and strained, so that, 
be her record for '^ tightness " never so good, one 
ordinary gale will make frequent exercise at the 
pump an established institution. And Captain South 
already knew that the Dorothea was far from being 
staunch and well-built, although, happily for his 
small remaining peace of mind, he did not know 
how walty and unseaworthy she really was. A few- 
minutes' bitter meditation, over this latest crook in 
his lot, and the man in him rose to the occasion, 
determined to make the best of it and hope steadily 
for a fine run into the trades. He superintended 
her stowing himself, much to the disgust of the 
stevedores, who are never over particular unless 
closely watched, although so much depends upon 
the way their work is done. At any rate, he had 
the satisfaction of knowing that the ugly stuff w^as 
as handsomely bestowed as experience could suggest, 
and, with a sigh of relief, he saw the main hatches 
put on and battened down for a full due. 

In the selection of his crew he had been un- 
usually careful. Five A.B.'s were all that he was 
allowed, the vessel being only 500 tons burden, 
two officers besides himself, and one man for the 
double function of cook and steward. Therefore, 
he sought to secure the best possible according 
to his judgment, and really succeeded in getting 


A Sea Change 

together a sturdy little band. His chief comfort, 
however, was in his second mate, who was a Finn 
—one of that phlegmatic race from the eastern 
shore of the Baltic who seem to inherit not only 
a natural aptitude for a sea life, but also the 
ability to build ships, make sails and rigging, do 
blacksmithing, &c.— all, in fact, that there is to a 
ship, as our cousins say. Slow, but reliable to the 
core, and a perfect godsend in a small ship. In 
Olaf Svensen, then, the skipper felt he had a tower 
of strength. The mate was a young Londoner, 
smart and trustworthy — not too independent to 
thrust his arms into the tarpot when necessary, and 
amiable withal. The other six members of the 
crew — two Englishmen and three Scandinavians — 
were good seamen, all sailors — ■ there w^asn't a 
steamboat man among them — and, from the first 
day when in the dock they all arrived sober and 
ready for work, matters went smoothly and salt- 
water fashion. 

It was late in October when they sailed, and 
they had no sooner been cast adrift by the grimy 
little ''jackal" that towed them down to the Nore 
than they were greeted by a bitter nor'-wester that 
gave them a sorry time of it getting round the 
Foreland. The short, vicious Channel sea made 
the loosely-knit frame of the brig sing a mournful 
song as she jumped at it, braced sharp up, and 
many were the ominous remarks exchanged in 
the close, wedge-shaped fo'c's'le on her behaviour 
in these comparatively smooth w^aters, coupled with 
gloomy speculations as to what sort of a list she 


A Sack of Shakings | 

would make of the Western Ocean waves presently. 
Clinkety- clank, bang, bang went the pumps for 
fifteen minutes out of every two hours, the water 
rising clear, as though drawn from overside, and 
a deeper shade settled on the skipper's brow. F'or 
a merry fourteen days they fought their way inch 
by inch down Channel, getting their first slant 
between Ushant and Scilly in the shape of a hard 
nor'-easter, that drove them clear of the land and 
300 miles out into the Atlantic. Then it fell a 
calm, with a golden haze all round the horizon 
by day, and a sweet, balmy feel in the air — a 
touch of Indian summer on the sea. Three days it 
lasted — days that brought no comfort to the 
skipper, who could hardly hold his patience when 
his wife blessed the lovely weather, in her happy 
ignorance of what might be expected as the price 
presently to be paid for it. Then one evening 
there began to rise in the west the familiar sign 
so dear to homeward - bounders, so dreaded by 
outward-going ships — the dense dome of cloud up- 
lifted to receive the setting sun. The skipper 
watched its growth as if fascinated by the sight, 
watched it until at midnight it had risen to be a 
vast convex screen, hiding one-half of the deep 
blue sky. At the changing of the watch he had 
her shortened down to the two lower topsails and 
fore-topmast staysail, and having thus snugged her, 
went below to snatch, fully dressed, a few minutes' 
sleep. The first moaning breath of the coming 
gale roused him almost as soon as it reached 
the ship, and as the watchful Svensen gave his 


A Sea Change 

first order, ** Lee fore brace!" the skipper appeared 
at the companion hatch, peering anxiously to 
windward, where the centre of that gloomy veil 
seemed to be worn thin. The only light left was 
just a little segment of blue low down on the 
eastern horizon, to which, in spite of themselves, 
the eyes of the travailing watch turned wistfully. 
But whatever shape the surging thoughts may take 
in the ^ninds of seamen, the exertion of the 
moment effectually prevents any development of 
them into despair in the case of our own country- 
men. So, in obedience to the hoarse cries of 
Mr. Svensen, they strove to get the Dorothea into 
that position where she would be best able to 
stem the rising sea, and fore-reach over the hiss- 
ing sullenness of the long, creaming rollers, that 
as they came surging past swept her, a mile at 
a blow, sideways to leeward, leaving a whir- 
ling, broadside wake of curling eddies. Silent 
and anxious. Captain South hung with one elbow 
over the edge of the companion, his keen hear- 
ing taking note of every complaint made by 
the trembling timbers beneath his feet, whose 
querulous voices permeated the deeper note of the 

All that his long experience could suggest for the 
safety of his vessel was put into practice. One 
by one the scanty show of sail was taken in and 
secured with extra gasket turns, lest any of them 
should, showing a loose corner, be ripped adrift 
by the snarling tempest. By eight bells (4 A.M.) the 
brig showed nothing to the bleak darkness above 

A Sack of Shakings 

but the two gaunt masts, with their ten bare yards 
tightly braced up against the lee backstays, and the 
long peaked forefinger of the jibboom reaching out 
over the pale foam. A tiny weather-cloth of canvas 
only a yard square was stopped in the weather main 
rigging, its small area amply sufficing to keep the 
brig's head up in the wind except when, momentarily 
becalmed by a hill of black water rearing its head 
to windward, it relaxed its steadfast thjust and 
suffered the vessel to fall off helplessly into the 
trough between two huge waves. Now commenced 
the long unequal struggle between a weakly-con- 
structed hull, unfairly handicapped by the wrench 
of a dead mass of iron within that met every 
natural scend of her frame with unyielding brutality 
of resistance, and the wise old sea, kindly indeed to 
ships whose construction and cargo enable them to 
meet its masses with the easy grace of its own 
inhabitants, but pitiless destroyer of all vessels that 
do not greet its curving assault with yielding grace, 
its mighty stride with sinuous deference of retreat. 
The useless wheel, held almost hard down, thumped 
slowly under the hands of the listless helmsman 
with the regularity of a nearly worn-out clock, while 
the oakum began to bulge upward from the deck 
seams. As if weary even unto death, the brig 
cowered before the untiring onslaught of the waves, 
allowing them to rise high above the weather rail, 
and break apart with terrible uproar, filling the 
decks rail-high from poop to forecastle. Pumping 
was incessant, yet Svensen found each time he 
dropped the slender sounding-rod down the tube 


A Sea Change 

a longer wetness upon it, until its two feet became 
insufficient, and the mark of doom crept up the 
line. And besides the ever-increasing inlet of the 
sea, men stayed by the pumps only at imminent 
risk of being dashed to pieces, for they were, as 
always, situated in the middle of the main deck, 
where the heaviest seas usually break aboard. There 
was little said, and but few looks exchanged. The 
skipper had, indeed, to meet the wan face of his 
wife, but she dared not put her fear into words, 
or he bring himself to tell her that except for a 
miracle their case was hopeless. He seldom left 
the deck, as if the wide grey hopelessness around 
had an irresistible fascination for him, and he 
watched with unspeculative eyes the pretty gambols 
of those tiny elves of the sea, the Mother Carey's 
chickens, as they fluttered incessantly to and fro 
across the wake of his groaning vessel. 

So passed a night and a day of such length that 
the ceaseless tumult of wind and wave had become 
normal, and slighter sounds could be easily dis- 
tinguished because the ear had become attuned to 
the elemental din. Unobtrusively the impassive 
Svensen had been preparing their only serviceable 
boat by stocking her with food, water, &c. The 
skipper had watched him with a dull eye, as if his 
proceedings were devoid of interest, but felt a 
glimmer of satisfaction at the evidence of his second 
mate's forethought. For all hope of the Dorotheas 
weathering the gale was now completely gone. 
Even the blue patches breaking through the heavy 
cloud-pall to leeward could not revive it. For she 


A Sack of Shakin 


was now only wallowing, with a muffled roar of 
turbid water within as it sullenly swept from side 
to side with the sinking vessel's heavy roll. The 
gale died away peacefully, the sea smoothed its 
wrinkled plain, and the grave stars peered out one 
by one, as if to reassure the anxious watchers. 
Midnight brought a calm, as deep as if wind had 
not yet been made, but the old swell still came 
marching on, making the doomed brig heave clumsily 
as it passed her. The day broke in perfect splen- 
dour, cloudless and pure, the wide heavens bared 
their solemn emptiness, and the glowing sun in 
lonely glory showered such radiance on the sea 
that it blazed with a myriad dazzling hues. But 
into that solitary circle, whereof the brig was the 
pathetic centre, came no friendly glint of sails, 
no welcome stain of trailing smoke across the 
clear blue. But the benevolent calm gave oppor- 
tunity for a careful launching of the boat, and as 
she lay quietly alongside the few finishing touches 
were given to her equipment. As the sun went 
down the vessel's motion ceased — she was now 
nearly level with the smooth surface of the ocean, 
which impassively awaited her farewell to the light. 
Hardly a word was spoken as the little company 
left her side and entered the boat. When all were 
safely bestowed the skipper said, ^'Cut that painter 
forrard there," and his voice sounded hollowly 
across the burdening silence. A few faint splashes 
were heard as the oars rose and fell, and the boat 
glided away. At a cable's length they ceased pull- 
ing, and with every eye turned upon the brig they 


A Sea Change 

waited. In a painful, strained hush, they saw her 
bow as if in stately adieu, and as if with an embrace 
the placid sea enfolded her. Silently she dis- 
appeared, the dim outlines of her spars lingering, 
as if loth to leave, against the deepening violet 
of the night. 

With one arm around his wife, the skipper sat at 
the tiller, a small compass before him, by the aid of 
which he kept her head toward Madeira, but, anxious 
to husband energy, he warned his men not to pull 
too strenuously. V^ery peacefully passed the night, 
no sound invading the stillness except the regular 
plash of the oars and an occasional querulous cry 
from a belated sea-bird aroused from its sleep by 
the passage of the boat. At dawn rowing ceased 
for a time, and those who were awake watched in 
a perfect silence, such as no other situation upon 
this planet can afford, the entry of the new day. Not 
one of them but felt like men strangely separated 
from mundane things, and face to face with the 
inexpressible mysteries of the timeless state. But it 
was Svensen who broke that sacred quiet by a 
sonorous shout of '' Sail-ho ! " With a transition like 
a wrench from death to life, all started into eager 
questioning ; and all presently saw, with the vigil.. .it 
Finn, the unmistakable outlines of a vessel branded 
upon the broad, bright semi-circle of the half-risen 
sun. Xo order was given or needed. Double- 
banked, the oars gripped the water, and with a steady 
rush the boat sped eastward towards that beatific 
vision of salvation. Even the skipper's face lost its 
dull shade of hopelessness, in spite of his loss, as 


A Sack of Shakings 

he saw the haggard Hnes relax from Mary's face. 
Quite a cheerful buzz of chat arose. Unweariedly, \ 
hour after hour, the boat sped onward over the 
bright smoothness, though the sun poured down his 
stores of heat and the sweat ran in steady streams 
down the brick-red faces of the toiling rowers. After 
four hours of unremitting labour they were near 
enough to their goal to see that she w^as a steamer 
lying still, with no trace of smoke from her funnel. 
As they drew nearer they saw that she had a heavy 
list to port, and presently came the suggestion that 
she was deserted. Hopes began to rise, visions of 
recompense for all their labour beyond anything they 
could have ever dreamed possible. The skipper's 
nostrils dilated, and a faint blush rose to his cheeks. 
Weariness was forgotten, and the oars rose and fell 
as if driven by steam, until, panting and breathless, 
they rounded to under the stern of a schooner-rigged 
steamer of about 2000 tons burden, without a boat 
in her davits, and her lee rail nearly at the water's 
edge. Running alongside, a rope trailing overboard 
was caught, and the boat made fast. In two minutes 
every man but the skipper was on board, and a 
purchase w^as being rigged for the shipment of Mrs. 
Swiith. No sooner was she also in safety than in- 
vestigation commenced. The discovery was soon 
made that, although the decks had been swept and 
the cargo evidently shifted, there was nothing wTong 
with the engines or boilers except that there was a 
good deal of water in the stokehold. She was 
evidently Italian by her name, without the addition 
of Genoa, the Luigi C, being painted on the harness 


A Sea Change 

casks and buckets, and her crew must have deserted 
her in a sudden panic. 

Like men intoxicated, they toiled to get things 
shipshape on board their prize, hardly pausing for 
sleep or food. And when they found the engines 
throbbing beneath their feet they were almost de- 
lirious with joy. Opening the hatches, they found 
that the cargo of grain had shifted, but not beyond 
their ability to trim, so they went at it with the same 
savage vigour they had manifested ever since they 
first flung themselves on board. And when, after five 
days of almost incessant labour, they took the pilot 
oil Dungeness, and steamed up the Thames to London 
again, not one of them gave a second thought to the 
hapless Dorothea. Twelve thousand pounds were 
divided among them by the Judge's orders, and 
Captain South found himself able to command a 
magnificent cargo steamer of more than 3000 tons 
register before he was a month older. 

241 Q 


There was no gainsaying the fact that the Sarah 
Jane was a very fine barge. Old Cheesy Morgan, 
whose Prairie Flower she had outreached in the 
annual barge regatta by half a mile, owned up 
frankly that the Sarah Jane^ if she had been built 
out of the wreckage of a sunken steamboat looted 
by the miserly old mudlark who owned her, could 
lay over any of his fleet, and when he gave in as 
far as that you might look upon the discussion as 
closed. Her skipper and mate, Trabby Goodjer and 
Skee Goss, were always ready (when in company) 
to punch any single man's head who said a word 
against her, and many sore bones had been carried 
away from the ^' Long Reach House " in conse- 
quence. Not that these two worthies were ever 
sparing of their extensive vocabulary of abuse of 
their command when working up or down the 
Thames, especially when she missed stays and 
hooked herself up on a mudbank about the first 
of the ebb, making them lose a whole day. 

Ever since her launching she had been regularly 
employed in the Margate trade from London with 
general merchandise and returning empty. Even 
this double expense for single freight paid the 
Margate shopkeepers better than submission to the 


Last Voyage of the " Sarah Jane " 

extortionate railway charges, while their enterprise 
was a golden streak of luck for the owner of the 
Sarah Jane, and her consorts. When she commenced 
the memorable voyage of which this is the veracious 
log, she had for crew, besides the two mariners 
already named, a youngster of some fifteen years 
of age as near as he could guess, but so stunted 
in growth from early hardships that he did not 
look more than twelve. He answered to anv name 
generally that sounded abusive or threatening, from 
long habit, but his usual title was the generic one 
for boys in north-country ships — Peedee. He had 
already seen a couple of years' service in deep-water 
vessels, getting far more than his rightful share of 
adventurous mishaps, besides having done a fairly 
comprehensive amount of vagabondage in the streets 
of London and Liverpool. But being so diminutive 
for his years he found it difficult to get a berth 
in a decent-sized ship, and in consequence it was 
often no easy matter for him to fill even his small 
belly, for all his precocious wits. Fate, supple- 
mented by his own fears, had hitherto been kind 
enough to keep him out of a Geordie collier or a 
North Sea trawler, but on the day he met Trabby 
Goodjer outside the '^King's Arms" in Thames 
Street, and asked him if he wanted a boy, his evil 
genius must have been in the ascendant. He hadn't 
tasted food for two days with the exception of a 
fistful of gritty currants he had raked out of a 
corner on Fresh Wharf, and as the keen spring 
wind shrieking round the greasy bacon-reeking ware- 
houses searched his small body to the marrow he 


A Sack of Shakings 

grew desperate. Thus it was that he became the 
crew of the Sarah Jane. Properly, she should have 
carried another man, but following the example 
of their betters in the Mercantile Marine the skipper 
and mate trusted to luck, and found under-manning 
pay. The owner lived at Rochester, and rarely 
saw his vessel except through a pair of glasses at 
long intervals as she passed the entrance to the 
Medway. So the payment of the crew was in the 
skipper's hands entirely, left to him by the London 
agent who ''managed" her. By sailing her a man 
short, and giving a boy los. a month instead of a 
pound, Captain Goodjer and chief officer Goss were 
able to enjoy many cheap drunks, and have thrown 
in, as it were, the additional enjoyment of ill-using 
something that was quite unable to turn the tables 

Between this delightful pair therefore, whose luck 
in getting backwards and forwards to Margate and 
London was phenomenal, Peedee had a lively time. 
Especially so when, from some unforeseen delay 
or extra thirst, the supply of liquor in the big 
stone jar kept at the head of the skipper's bunk 
ran short and they were perforce compelled to 
exchange their usual swinish condition of uncertain 
good-humour for an irritable restlessness that sought 
relief by exercising ingenious forms of cruelty upon 
their hapless crew. Occasionally they had a rough- 
and-tumble between themselves, once indeed they 
both rolled over the side in a cat-like scrimmage, 
but there was nothing like the solace to be got 
out of that amusement that there was in beating 



Last Voyage of the " Sarah Jane " 

Peedee. But he, preternaturally wise, was only 
biding his time. The score against his persecutors 
was growing very long, but a revenge that should 
be at once pleasant, enduring, and final, slowly 
shaped itself in his mind. Accident rather than 
design matured his plans prematurely, but still he 
showed real genius by rising to the occasion that 
thus presented itself and utilising it in a truly re- 
markable manner. 

One Friday evening in the middle of October 
the Sarah Jane was loosed from the wharf where 
she had received her miscellaneous freight, and 
with the usual amount of river compliments and 
collisions with the motley crowd of craft all in an 
apparently hopeless tangle in the crowded Pool, 
began her voyage on the first of the ebb. The 
skipper and the mate were both more than ordinarily 
muzzy, but intuitively they succeeded in getting her 
away from the ruck without receiving more than 
her fair share of hard knocks. Once in the fairway 
the big sprit-sail and jib were hove up to what 
little wind there was, and away she went at a fairly 
good pace. Peedee did most of the steering as he 
did of everything else that was possible to him, 
receiving as his due many pretty bargee-compliments 
from his superiors as they sprawled at their ease 
by the bogie funnel. They reached Greenhithe at 
slack water, where, the wind veering ahead, they 
anchored for the night at no great distance from 
the reformatory ship Cornivall, The sails were 
furled after a fashion, and with many a blood- 
curdling threat to Peedee should he fail to keep a 


A Sack of Shakings 

good look-out, Trabby and his mate went below 
into their stuffy den to sleep. Somewhere about 
midnight the shivering boy awoke with a start, 
that nearly tumbled him off his perch on the 
windlass, to see two white figures clambering on 
board out of the river. Wide awake on the instant 
he saw they were boys like himself, and whispered, 
'^ All right, mates, here y'are." Noiselessly he showed 
them the fo'c's'le scuttle, where they might get 
below and hide. When they had disappeared 
he crept to the side of the darksome hole and 
held a whispered conversation with the visitors, 
finding that they were runaways from the Coimwall^ 
and immediately his active brain saw splendid 
possibilities in this accession of strength if only he 
could conceal their presence from his enemies aft. 
For the present, however, there was nothing to 
be done but lie quietly and wait events. Daring 
the risk of awakening the '' officers " he made a 
raid upon the grub-locker aft, securing half a loaf 
and a lump of Dutch cheese, which he carried 
forward to the shivering stowaways. His own 
wardrobe being on his back he could not lend 
them any clothes, but they comforted themselves 
with the thought that they would soon be dry. 
And assisted by Peedee they made a snug lair in 
the gritty convolutions of a worn-out mainsail that 
was stowed in their hiding-place, finding warmth and 
speedy oblivion in spite of their terrors. 

The slack arrived some little time before the pale, 
cheerless dawn, and with it a small breeze fair for 
their passage down. Unwillingly enough Peedee 


Last Voyage of the '' Sarah Jane " 

aroused his masters from their fetid hole, getting by 
way of reward for his vigilant obedience of orders 
a perfectly tropical squall of curses. Nevertheless 
they were soon on deck, having turned in like 
horses, ''all standing." Without speaking a word 
to each other, they proceeded to get the anchor, 
but so out of humour were they that Peedee had 
much more than his usual allowance of fresh cuts 
and bruises before the barge was fairly aweigh. 
Gradually the wind freshened as if assisted by the 
oncoming light, so that before the red disc of the 
sun peeped over the edge of London's great gloom 
behind them, the Sara/i Jane was making grand 
progress. Again Peedee took the wheel, while the 
skipper and mate retired to the cabin for a drink. 
Suddenly sounds of woe arose therefrom. The 
agonising discovery had been made that the precious 
jar was empty. It had been capsized during the 
night, and the bung, being but loosely inserted, had 
fallen out. Its contents now lay in a sticky pool 
behind the stove, mixed with the accumulated filth 
of two or three days. It was a sight too harrowing 
for ordinary speech. They glared at one another 
for a few seconds in silence, until Trabby with a 

vicious set of his ugly mouth growled, ''Thet 

young mudlawk." '' Ar," said the mate, with an air 

of having found what he wanted, •' I'll well skin 

'im w'en I goo on deck." But though the thought 
was pleasant and some relief to their feelings, they 
remembered, being sober, that if they were not a 
little less demonstrative in their attentions to the 
boy they would certainly have to do his work them- 


A Sack of Shakings 

selves. That gave them pause^ and they discussed 
with much gravity how they might deal with him 
without inconvenience to themselves, until breakfast 
time. When they had in hoggish fashion satisfied 
their hunger (their thirst no amount of coffee could 
quench) they lit their pipes and lay back to get 
such solace as tobacco could afford, and ruminate 
also upon the possibility of replenishing the stone 
jar. Peedee steered on steadily, breakfastless, and 
likely to remain so. Swiftly the barge sped down 
the reaches in company with a whole fleet of her 
fellows ^' cluttering up the river," as an angry Geordie 
skipper, who had just shaved close by one of them, 
remarked, 'Mike a school o' fat swine in a tatty 
field." So they fared for the whole forenoon with- 
out incident, until with a savage curse and a blow 
Trabby took the wheel from the hungry lad, bidding 
him go and get their dinner ready. While he was 
thus engaged a thick mist gradually closed in upon 
the crowded river, reducing its vivid panorama to 
an unreal expanse of white cloudiness through which 
phantom shapes slowly glided to an accompaniment 
of unearthly sounds. Suddenly to Peedee's amaze- 
ment the big sail overhead began to f]ap, the jib- 
sheet rattled on the "traveller," and Skee Goss, 
striding forward, let go the anchor. Then the two 
men brailed in the mainsail, allowed the jib to run 
down, and without saying a word to the wondering 
boy, shoved the boat over the side, jumped into her, 
and were swallowed up in the fog. The instant 
they disappeared Peedee stood motionless, his ears 
acutely strained for the measured play of the oars 


Last Voyage of the '' Sarah Jane " 

as the skipper and mate pulled lustily shorewards. 
When at last he could hear them no longer, he 
rushed to the scuttle forward, and dropping on his 
knees by its side, called down, '' Below there ! 'r y' 
sleep ? On deck with ye 's quick 's the devil'll let 
ye." Up they came, looking scared to death. With- 
out wasting a word, under Peedee's direction the 
three hove the anchor up, although Peedee was 
artful enough to lift the solitary pawl so that it 
could make no noise. By the time they got the 
anchor they were all three streaming with sweat, 
but without a moment's pause Peedee dropped the 
pawl, and taking a turn with the chain round 
the windlass end in case of accidents, cast off the 
brails, letting the great brown sail belly out to the 
fresh breeze. Having got the sheet aft with a 
tremendous struggle, he took the wheel, saying, 
^'Now you two fellers, git forrard 'n histe thet jib 
up, 'n look lively too 'less you want ter be dam 
well murdered." In utter bewilderment as to what 
was happening the two lads blundered forward, 
and guided by the energetic directions of their 
self-appointed commander, soon got the sail set. 
Fully under control at last, the Sar<^k fane sped 
away seaward before a breeze that, freshening 
every minute, bade fair to be blowing a gale 
before night. 

But Peedee, transformed into a man by his sudden 
resolve and its successful execution, called his crew 
to him, and while he skilfully guided the barge down 
the strangely quiet river, endeavoured to explain to 
them what he had done and why ; together with his 


A Sack of Shakings 

plans for the future. He was utterly contemptuous 
of their seafaring abilities, telling them that '^he'd 
teach 'em more in two days than they'd learn aboard 
that ugly old hulk in a year," and although they were 
each quite a head and shoulders taller than himself, 
he treated them as if they were mere infants and 
he was an old salt. And there was a light in his 
eye, an elasticity in his movements that impressed 
them more than all his words. Woe betide them 
had they dared to cross him 1 For in that small 
body was bubbling and fermenting the sweet must 
of satisfied revenge, strengthened by conscious power 
and utterly unadulterated by any sense of future 
difficulty or responsibility. Higher rose the wind, 
driving the mist before it and revealing the broad 
mouth of the river all white with foam as the con- 
flicting forces of storm and tide battled over the 
labyrinth of banks. Obviously the first thing to do 
was the instruction of his crew in steering, for as 
soon as he found time to think of it he felt faint 
with hunger. Fortunately one of the runaways had 
been coxswain of a boat, and very little sufficed to 
show him the difference between a tiller and a wheel. 
And all untroubled by the rising sea, the deeply- 
laden barge ploughed on far steadier than many a 
vessel ten times her size would have done. Relieved 
from the wheel, Peedee hastened to the caboose and 
found some of the dinner he had been preparing still 
eatable. Supplementing it by such provisions as he 
could easily lay hands on in the cabin, the trio made 
a hearty meal, winding up with a smoke all round 
in genuine sailor fashion. 


Last Voyage of the ^' Sarah jane " 

With hunger appeased and perfect freedom lapping 
them around, who shall say that they were not 
happy ? Occasionally a queer little tremor, a pre- 
monition of a price by-and-by to be paid for their 
present adventure, thrilled up the spine of each of 
the tw^o runaways, but when they stole a glance 
at the calm features of their commander they were 
comforted. So onward they sailed, through the 
tortuous channels of the Thames' estuary, scudding 
before a stress of wind under whole canvas at a 
rate that made Peedee rejoice exceedingly, although 
every few minutes a green comber of a sea swept 
diagonally across the whole of the low deck, but 
never invaded the cabin top. Night fell, the side- 
lights were exhibited, and like any thousand-ton 
ship the Sarah Jane stood boldly out into mid- 
channel, Peedee shaping a course which would carry 
them down well clear of all the banks. Morning 
saw them off the Varne shoal, the objects of eager 
curiosity to the gaping crew^ of a huge four-masted 
barque that passed them within a cable's length. 
And as the sun rose the weather cleared, the sky 
smiled down upon them, the keen wind and bright 
sea gave them a delicious sense of freedom, while 
the grand speed of their ship stirred them to almost 
delirious delight. This ecstatic condition lasted for 
two days until, no definite land being in sight, and 
passing vessels becoming fewer, the two new hands 
began to feel that dread of the unknown that might 
have been expected of them. Timidly they appealed 
to Peedee to tell them what he was going to do. 
But with bitter scorn of their fears, all the fiercer 


A Sack of Shakings 

because he didn't in the least know what was going 
to happen, he railed upon them for a pair of cowardly 
milksops, and suggested hauling up for some West- 
country port and dumping them on the beach. Truth 
to tell he was becoming somewhat anxious himself as 
to his whereabouts, for the stock of water was getting 
very low, although there was enough food in the 
hold to have lasted them round the world. Fate, 
however, served them better than design. When 
night fell a heavy bank of clouds which had been 
lowering in the west all day suddenly began to 
rise, and soon after dark, in a sudden squall, the 
wind shifted to that quarter with mist and rain. 
Under these new conditions Peedee lost his bearings 
and allowed his command to run away with him 
into the darkness to leeward. At about four o'clock 
in the morning he heard a dreadful sound, well 
known to him from experience, the hungry growl 
of breakers. But before he had time to get too 
frightened there was a sudden turmoil of foaming 
sea around them in place of the dark hollows and 
white summits of the deep water, and with a tipsy 
lurch or so the Sarah Jane came to a standstill. 
She lay so quietly that Peedee actually called his 
crew to brail up the mainsail and haul down the 
jib in sailor fashion. Daylight revealed the fact that 
she was high and dry, having run in past all sorts 
of dangers until she grounded under the lee of a 
beetling mass of rock and there remained unscathed. 
While they were having a last meal they were startled 
by seeing some uncouth-looking men coming at top 
speed over the rugged shore. But they lowered 


Last Voyage of the '' Sarah Jane " 

themselves down over the side and ran to meet 
them, finding them foreigners indeed. Before long 
the whole scanty population was down and busy 
with the spoil thus providentially provided, while the 
three boys were hailed as benefactors to their species, 
and made welcome to the best that the village con- 
tained. And two tides after the Sarah Jane was as 
though she had never been, while the wanderers, well 
provided with necessaries, were off for an autumn 
tour on foot through Southern Brittanv. 



Not the least of the mighty changes wrought by the 
advent of steam as a motive-power at sea is the 
alteration it has made in the superstitious notions 
current among seamen from the earliest days of sea- 
faring. In the hurry and stress of the steamboat- 
man's life there is little scope for the indulgence of 
any fancies whatever, and the old sea-traditions have 
mostly died out for lack of suitable environment. 
Indeed, a new genus of seafarers have arisen to 
whom the name of sailors hardly applies ; they them- 
selves scornfully accept the designation of '^sea- 
navvies " ; and many instances are on record where, 
it having become necessary to make sail in heavy 
weather to aid the lumbering tramp in her struggle 
to claw off a lee-shore, or keep ahead of a following 
sea, the master has found to his dismay that he had 
not a man in his crew capable of tackling such 
a job. 

Perhaps the first old belief to go was that sailing 
on a Friday was to court certain disaster. All old 
sailors dwell with unholy gusto upon the legend of 
the ship that was commenced on a Friday, finished 
on a Friday, named the Friday^ commanded by 
Captain Friday, sailed on a Friday, and — foundered 
on the same luckless day with dl hands, as a warning 
to all reckless shipowners and skippers never again 



to run counter to the eternal decrees ordaining that 
the day upon which the Saviour of the world was 
crucified should be henceforth accursed or kept holy, 
according to the bent of the considering mind. But 
steam has changed all that. When a steamer's time 
for loading or discharging began to be reckoned 
not in days but in hours, the notion of detaining 
her in port for a whole day in deference to an idea 
became too ridiculous for entertainment, and it 
almost immediately died a natural death. This, of 
course, had its effect upon the less hastily worked 
sailing vessels, although there are still to be found 
in British sailing ships masters who would use a 
good deal of artifice to avoid sailing on that day. 
Among the Spanish, Italian, Austrian, and Greek 
sailing vessels, however, Friday is still held in most 
superstitious awe. And on Good Friday there is 
always a regular carnival held on board these vessels, 
the yards being allowed to hang at all sorts of angles, 
the gear flung dishevelled and loose, w^hile an effigy 
of Judas is subjected to all the abuse and indignity 
that the lively imaginations of the seamen can devise. 
Finally, the effigy is besmeared with tar, a rope 
attached to it which is then rove through a block 
at the main yard-arm, it is set alight, and amid the 
frantic yells and execrations of the seamen it is 
slowly swung aloft to dangle and blaze, while the 
excited mariners use up their remaining energies in 
a wild dance. 

Another superstition that still survives in sailing 
vessels everywhere is, strangely enough, connected 
with the recalcitrant prophet Jonah. It is, however, 


A Sack of Shakings 

confined to his bringing misfortune upon the ship 
in which he sailed, and seldom is any allusion made 
to his miraculous engulphing by the specially pre- 
pared great fish. It does not take a long series of 
misfortunes overtaking a ship to convince her crew 
that a lineal descendant of Jonah and an inheritor 
of his disagreeable disqualifications is a passenger. 
So deeply rooted is this idea that when once it has 
been aroused with respect to any member of a ship's 
company, that person is in evil case, and, given 
fitting opportunity, would actually be in danger of 
his life. This tinge of religious fanaticism, cropping 
up among a class of men who, to put it mildly, are 
not remarkable for their knowledge of Scripture, also 
shows itself in connection with the paper upon which 
^'good words" are printed. It is an unheard-of 
misdemeanour on board ship to destroy or put to 
common use such paper. The man guilty of such 
an action would be looked upon with horror by his 
shipmates, although their current speech is usually 
vile and blasphemous beyond belief. And herein 
is to be found a curious distinction between seamen 
of Teutonic and Latin race, excluding Frenchmen. 
Despite the superstitious reverence the former pay 
to the written word, none of them would in time of 
peril dream pf rushing to the opposite extreme, and 
after madly abusing their Bibles, throw them over- 
board. But the excitable Latins, after beseeching 
their patron saint to aid them in the most agonising 
tones, repeating with frenzied haste such prayers as 
they can remember, and promising the most costly 
gifts in the event of their safely reaching port 



again, often turn furiously upon all they have pre- 
viously been worshipping, and with the most horrid 
blasphemies, vent their rage upon the whilom objects 
of their adoration. Nothing is too sacred for insult, 
no name too reverend for abuse, and should there 
be, as there often is, an image of a saint on board, 
it will probably be cast into the sea. 

But one of the most incomprehensible forms of 
sea-superstition is that which has for its object that 
most prosaic of all sea - going people, the Finns. 
Russian Finns, seamen always call them, although 
there is far more of the Swede than the Russian 
about them, and their tongue is Swedish also. 
They are perhaps the most perfect specimens of 
the ideal seafarer in the world, although the Canadian 
runs them closely. All things that appertain to a 
ship seem to come easily to their doing, from the 
time of first laying the vessel's keel until, with 
every spar, sail, and item of running gear in its 
place, she trips her ''kellick" and leaves the harbour 
behind her for the other side of the world. And 
even then the Finn will be found to yield to none 
in his knowledge of navigation. Although his hands 
may be gnarled and split with toil, and his square, 
expressionless face look as if '^unskilled labourer" 
were imprinted upon it, much difficulty would be 
found in the search for a keener or more correct 
hand at trigonometrical problems, or a better keeper 
of that most useful document, a ship's log-book. 

Yet to these men, by common consent, a super- 
natural status has been assigned. Whether among 
the Latins the same idea holds is somewhat doubtful, 

257 R 

A Sack of Shakings 

but certainly in British, American, and Scandinavian 
vessels Finns are always credited with characteristics 
which a century ago would have involved them in 
many unpleasantnesses. Chiefly harmless, no doubt, 
these weird powers, yet when your stolid shipmate 
is firmly believed to control the winds so master- 
fully as to supply his favoured friends with a quarter- 
ing breeze while all the rest of the surrounding 
vessels have a ^'dead muzzier," any affection you 
may have had for him is seriously liable to de- 
generate into fear. It is perhaps hardly necessary 
to say that from whatever the original idea of 
Finnish necromancy originally arose, a whole host 
of legends have grown up, many of them too trivial 
for print, some delightfully quaint, others not less 
original than lewd, but all evidently grafts of fancy 
upon some parent stock. Thus, while there is a 
rat in the ship no Finn was ever known to lose 
anything, because it is well known that any rat in 
the full possession of his faculties would be only 
too glad to wait upon the humblest Finn. And 
the reason why Finns are always fat is because 
they have only to go and stick their knives in the 
foremast to effect a total change in their meat to 
whatever they fancy most keenly at the time. It 
is well that they are mostly temperate men, since 
everybody knows that they can draw any liquor 
they like from the water - breaker by turning their 
cap round, and they never write letters home because 
the birds that hover round the ship are proud to 
bear their messages whithersoever they list. The 
catalogue of their privileges might be greatly ex- 



tended were it needful, but one thing always strikes 
an unbiassed observer — the Finn is, almost without 
exception, one of the humblest, quietest of seafarers, 
whose sole aim is to do what he is told as well as 
he can, to give as little trouble as possible, and where 
any post of responsibility is given him to show his 
appreciation of it by doing two men's work, filling 
up his leisure by devising schemes whereby he can 
do more. 

Of the minor superstitions there is little to be 
said. Few indeed are the old sailors now afloat 
who would cuff a youngster's ears for whistling, 
fearing that his merry note would raise a storm. 
Whistling for wind, however, still persists, as much 
a habit as the hissing of a groom while rubbing 
down a horse, but a very sceptical laugh would 
meet any one who inquired whether the whistler 
believed that his sifflement would make any difference 
to the force or direction of the wind. Fewer still 
are those who would now raise any objections to 
the presence of a clergyman on board. But the 
belief that a death, whether of a man or an animal, 
7nust be followed by a gale of wind is perhaps more 
firmly held than any other, unless it be the notion 
that sharks follow any ship wherein is an ailing man 
or woman, with horrible anticipation. 



Whatever of beauty the sea possesses it owes 
primarily to the winds — to the free breath of 
heaven which sweeps joyously over those vast lonely 
breadths, ruffling them with tiniest ripples by its 
zephyrs, and hurling them in headlong fury for 
thousands of miles by its hurricanes. It may be said 
that the term ^' ocean" cannot rightly be applied to 
winds at all, since they are common to the whole 
globe, and are not, like waves and currents, confined 
to the sea. But a little consideration will surely 
convince that it is just and right to speak of dis- 
tinctive ocean winds which by contact with the great, 
pure plains of the sea acquire a character which a 
land wind never has or can have. In fact, it may 
be said with perfect truth that but for the health- 
bearing winds from the sea, landward folk would 
soon sicken and die, for our land winds are laden 
with disease germs, or, as in the mistral, the puna, 
the sirocco, and the simoom, to mention only a 
few of these terrible enemies to life, are still more 
deadly in their blasting effect upon mankind. From 
all these evil qualities ocean winds are free, and he 
who lives remote from the land, inhaling only their 
pure breath, knows truly what health is, feels the 


Ocean Winds 

blood dance joyously through his arteries, aerated 

As a factor in sea traffic ocean winds are popularly 
supposed to have become negligible. Indeed, the 
remark is often heard (on shore) that the steamship 
has made man independent of wind and tide. It is 
just the kind of statement that would emanate from 
some of our pseudo-authorities upon marine matters, 
and akin to the oft-quoted opinion that the advent 
of the steamship has driven romance from the sea. 
In the first place, seamen know how tremendously 
the wind affects even the highest-powered steamship, 
and although some sailors will talk about an ocean 
liner ploughing her way through the teeth of an 
opposing gale at full speed, it is only from their love 
of the marvellous and desire to make the landsman 
stare. They know that such a statement is ridicu- 
lously untrue. Leaving the steamship out of the 
question, however, there are still very large numbers 
of vessels at sea which are entirely dependent upon 
the winds for their propulsion, their transit between 
port and port. They grow fewer and fewer every 
year, of course, as they are lost or broken up, 
because they are not replaced, yet in certain trades 
they are so useful and economical that it is difficult 
to see why they should be allowed to disappear. 
Masters of such ships are considered to be smart 
or the reverse in proportion to their knowledge of 
ocean winds, where to steer in order to get the full 
benefit of their incidence, what latitudes to avoid 
because there winds rarely blow, and how best to 


A Sack of Shakings 

manoeuvre their huge-winged craft in the truly in- 
fernal whirl of an advancing or receding cyclone. 
For such purposes ocean winds may roughly be 
divided into two classes — the settled and the ad- 
ventitious : those winds that may fairly be de- 
pended upon for regularity both as to force and 
direction, and those whose coming and going is 
so aptly used in Scripture allegory. Taking as the 
former class the Trade winds of the globe, it is 
found that they are also subject to much muta- 
bility, especially those to the northward of the 
Equator known as the " North-East Trades." Old 
seamen speak of them as do farmers of the 
weather ashore — complain that neither in steadiness 
of direction nor in constancy of force are they to 
be depended upon as of old. Of course they vary 
somewhat with the seasons, but that is not what 
is complained of by the mariner ; it is their capri- 
cious variation from year to year, whereby you shall 
actually find a strong wind well to the southward 
of east in what should be the heart of the North- 
East Trades, or at another time fall upon a stark 
calm prevailing where you had every right to expect 
a fresh favouring breeze. 

Still, with all their failure to maintain the reputa- 
tion of former times in the estimation of sailors (as 
distinguished from steamship crews), even the much 
maligned North-East Trade winds are fairly depend- 
able. The South-East Trades, again, are almost 
as sure in their operation as is the recurrence of 
day and night. The homeward-bound sailing ship, 


Ocean Winds 

once having been swept round the Cape of Good 
Hope in spite of adverse winds by the irresistible 
Agulhas current, usually finds awaiting her a 
southerly wind. Sailors refuse to call it the first 
of the Trades, considering that any wind blowing 
without the Tropics has no claim to be called 
a "Trade." This fancy matters little. The great 
thing is that these helpful breezes await the home- 
ward-bounder close down to the southern limit 
of his passage, aw^ait him with arms outspread in 
welcome, and coincidently with the pleasant turn- 
ing of his ship's head homeward, permit the yards 
to be squared, and the course to be set as desired. 
And the ship — like a docile horse who, after a long 
day's journey, finds his head pointing stablewards 
and settles steadily down to a clinking pace — 
gathers way in stately fashion and glides north- 
ward at a uniform rate without any further need 
of interference from her crew. Throughout the 
long bright days, with the sea wearing one vast 
many-dimpled smile, and the stainless blue above 
quivering in light uninterrupted by the passage 
of a single cloud, the white-winged ship sweeps 
serenely on. All around in the paling blue of 
the sky near the horizon float the sleepy, fleecy 
cumuli peculiar to the ''Trades," without percept- 
ible motion or change of form. When day steps 
abruptly into night, and the myriad glories of the 
sunless hours reveal themselves shyly to an unheed- 
ing ocean, the silent ship still passes ghost-like 
upon her placid way, the steadfast wind rounding 


A Sack of Shakings 

her canvas into the softest of curves, without a 
wrinkle or a shake. Before her stealthy approach 
the glittering waters part, making no sound save 
a cool rippling as of a fern-shadowed brooklet 
hurrying through some rocky dell in Devon. The 
sweet night's cool splendours reign supreme. The 
watch, with the exception of the officer, the helms- 
man, and the look-out man, coil themselves in 
corners and sleep, for they are not needed, and 
during the day much work is adoing in making 
their ship smart for home. And thus they will go 
without a break of any kind for over two thousand 

Next to the Trades in dependability, and fairly 
entitled to be called sub-permanent, are the west 
winds of the regions north and south of the Tropics, 
or about the parallels of 40° north or south. With- 
out the steadiness of these winds in the great 
Southern Sea, the passage of sailing ships to Austra- 
lasia or India would indeed be a tedious business. 
But they can be reckoned upon so certainly that 
in many cases the duration of passages of ships 
outward and homeward can be predicted within a 
week, which speaks volumes for the wonderful 
average steadiness of the great wind-currents. Al- 
though these winds bear no resemblance to the 
beautiful Trades. Turbulent, boisterous, and cruel, 
they try human endurance to its utmost limits, and 
on board of a weak ship, fleeing for many days 
before their furious onslaught, anxiety rises to a 
most painful pitch with the never-ceasing strain 


Ocean Winds 

upon the mind. They have also a way of winding 
themselves up anew, as it w^ere, at intervals. They 
grow stronger and fiercer by successive blasts until 
the culminating blow compels even the strongest 
ships to reduce canvas greatly unless they would 
have it carried away hke autumn leaves. Then the 
wind will begin to shift round by the south gradu- 
ally and with decreasing force until, as if impatient, 
it will jump a couple of points at a time. Then, 
in the '' old " sea, the baffled, tormented ship staggers 
blindly, making misery for her crew and testing 
severely her sturdy frame. Farther and farther 
round swings the wind, necessitating much labour 
aloft for the shipmen, until in the space of, say, 
twenty-four hours from its first giving way, it has 
described a complete circle and is back again in its 
old quarter, blowing fiercely as ever. Not that this 
peculiar evolution is always made. There are times 
when to sailors' chagrin the brave west wind fails 
them in its proper latitudes, being succeeded by 
baffling easterlies, dirty weather of all kinds, and a 
general feeling of instability, since to expect fine 
weather in the sense of light wind and blue sky 
for any length of time in those stern regions is to 
reveal ignorance of their character. Yet it is only 
in such occasional lapses from force and course of 
the west wind of the south that the hapless seaman 
seeking to double Cape Horn from the east can 
hope to slip round. So that while his fellows 
farther east are fleeing to their goal at highest 
speed, he is being remorselessly battered by the 


A Sack of Shakings 

same gale, driven farther and farther south, and 
ill-used generally, and only by taking advantage of 
the brief respite can he effect his purpose. 

The monsoon winds of the Indian seas are most 
important and unique in their seasonal changing. 
For six months of the year the wind in the Bay 
of Bengal and the Arabian Sea will be north- 
easterly and the weather fine. Over the land, 
however, this fine wind is bearing no moisture, 
and its longer persistence than usual means famine 
with all its attendant horrors. ^' Fine weather " 
grows to be a term of awful dread, and men's eyes 
turn ever imploringly to the south-west, hoping, 
with an intensity of eagerness that is only felt 
where life is at stake, for the darkening of those 
skies of steely blue, until one day a cloud no 
bigger than a man's hand arises from the sharply 
defined horizon. Swiftly it expands into ominous- 
looking masses, but the omens are of blessing, of 
relief from drought and death. The howling wind 
hurls before it those leaden water-bearers until, one 
by one, they burst over the iron-bound earth, and 
from station to station throughout the length and 
breadth of Hindostan is flashed the glad message, 
**The monsoon has burst." Out at sea the great 
steamships emerging from the Gulf of Aden are 
met by the turbulent south-wester, and have need 
of all their power to stem its force, force which is 
quite equal to that of a severe Atlantic gale at 
times. And all sailors dread the season, bringing 
as it does to their sorely tried bodies the maximum 


Ocean Winds 

of physical discomfort possible at sea in warm 

Of the varying forces of winds, from the zephyr 
to the hurricane, it would be easy to write another 
page, but this subject is not strictly within the scope 
of the present article, and must therefore be left 



Remembering gratefully, as all students should do, 
the immense literary value of the Bible, it is not 
without a pang of regret that we are obliged to 
confess that its pages are so meagre of allusions 
to the grandest of all the Almighty's works — the 
encircling sea. Of course we cannot be surprised 
at this, seeing how scanty was the acquaintance 
with the sea enjoyed by ancient civilised peoples, 
to whom that exaggerated lake, the Mediterranean, 
was the '' Great Sea," and for whom the River 
Oceanus was the margin of a boundless outer 
darkness. Yet in spite of this drawback. Old 
Testament allusions to the sea then known, few as 
they are, remain unsurpassable in literature, needing 
not to withdraw their claims to pre-eminence before 
such gems as ^' Ocean's many-dimpled smile " or the 
'^ Wine-dark main " of the pagan poets. In number, 
too, though sparsely sprinkled, they far surpass 
those of the New Testament, which, were it not 
for one splendid exception, might almost be neglected 
as non-existent. 

Our Lord's connection with the sea and its toilers 
was confined to those petty Syrian lakes which 
to-day excite the traveller's wonder as he recalls 
the historical accounts of hundreds of Roman galleys 
floating thereupon ; and all his childish dreams of 


The Sea in the New Testament 

the great sea upon which the Lord was sailing 
and sleeping when that memorable storm arose 
which He stilled with a word suffer much by 
being brought face to face with the realities of 
Httle lake and tiny boat. St. John and St. James 
show by their almost terror-stricken words about 
the sea what they felt, and from want of a due 
consideration of proportion their allusions have been 
much misunderstood. No man who knew the sea 
could have written as one of the bhssful conditions 
of the renewed heaven and earth that there should 
^'be no more sea," any more than he could have 
spoken of the limpid ocean wave as casting up 
'' mire and dirt." 

But by one incomparable piece of writing Paul, 
the Apostle born out of due time, has rescued the 
Xew Testament from this reproach of neglect, and 
at the same time has placed himself easily in the 
front rank of those who have essayed to depict 
the awful majesty of wind and wave as well as 
the feebleness, allied to almost presumptuous daring, 
of those who do business in great waters. Wonder 
and admiration must also be greatly heightened if 
we do but remember the circumstances under which 
this description was written. The writer had, by the 
sheer force of his eloquence, by his daring to await 
the precise moment in which to assert his citizen- 
ship, escaped what might at any moment have be- 
come martyrdom. Weary with a terrible journey, 
faint from many privations, he was hurried on board 
a ship of Adramyttium bound to the coast of Asia 
(places not specified). What sort of accommodation 


A Sack of Shakings 

and treatment awaited him there under even the 
most favourable circumstances we know very well. 
For on the East African coast even to this day we 
find precisely the same kind of vessels, the same 
primitive ideas of navigation, the same absence of 
even the most elementary notions of comfort, the 
same touching faith in its being always fine weather 
as evinced by the absence of any precautions against 
a storm. 

Such a vessel as this carried one huge sail bent 
to a yard resembling a gigantic fishing-rod whose 
butt when the sail was set came nearly down to the 
deck, while the tapering end soared many feet above 
the masthead. As it was the work of all hands to 
hoist it, and the operation took a long time, when 
once it was hoisted it was kept so if possible, and 
the nimble sailors with their almost prehensile 
toes climbed up the scanty rigging, and clinging to 
the yard gave the sail a bungling furl. The hull 
was just that of an exaggerated boat, sometimes 
undecked altogether, and sometimes covered in with 
loose planks, excepting a hut-like erection aft 
which was of a little more permanent character. 
Large oars were used in weather that admitted 
of this mode of propulsion, and the anchors w^ere 
usually made of heavy forked pieces of wood, 
whereto big stones were lashed. There was a rudder, 
but no compass, so that the crossing of even so 
narrow a piece of water as separated Syria from 
Cyprus was quite a hazardous voyage. Tacking was 
unknown or almost so, and once the mariners got 
hold of the land they were so reluctant to lose 


The Sea in the New Testament 

sight of it that they heeded not how much time the 
voyage took or what distances they travelled. 

The nameless ship of Adramyttium then at last 
ventured from Sidon and fetched Cyprus, sailing 
under its lee. How salt that word tastes, and what 
visions it opens up of these infant navigators creep- 
ing cautiously from point to point along that rugged 
coast, heeding not at all the unnecessary distance 
so long as they were sheltered from the stormy 
autumn weather. Another perilous voyage across 
'' the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia" (another 
purely maritime term) and the harbour of Myra was 
gained. Great were the rejoicings of the voyagers, 
but premature, for every ' day that passed brought 
them nearer to the time of tempest, and conse- 
quently of utmost danger. In fact the memorable 
voyage of St. Paul may be said to begin here. The 
crossing of the Great Sea had been accomplished 
without incident, although doubtless occupying so 
many days that the landsmen were by this time 
somewhat accustomed to the misery of life at sea 
in those days, when in coarse weather sea-sickness 
was one of the least of their woes. 

The shipment by the centurion of his prisoners 
on board of the Alexandrian wheat-ship marked the 
commencement of a series of troubles. In the first 
place, for such a ship and such a voyage the 
number of people on board was far too great, even 
if we accept the lower estimate — seventy-six — w^hich 
is placed on her complement by some ancient 
authorities. If she carried two hundred and seventy- 
six she must have been like an Arab dhow running 


A Sack of Shakings 

a full cargo of slaves, and it is difficult to see how, 
even taking into consideration the way in which both 
mariners and passengers were inured to hardship, 
she could have carried them all through the wild 
weather and weary days following without some 
deaths. "And when we had sailed slowly many 
days " (what a world of suffering can be read into 
those few pathetic w^ords), they fetched under the 
lee of Crete with all the thankfulness that might be 
expected from men w^ho had been so pitilessly ex- 
posed to the fury of the open sea. With difficulty 
they crept along the coast until they got into the 
Fair Havens and refreshed their weary hearts. 

No wonder they were reluctant to put again to 
sea, even though they knew that every day brought 
wilder weather, and their chance of wintering in their 
present harbour safely was poor, from its exposed 
position. And now we find St. Paul taking the risky 
step of advising seafarers as to the proper conduct 
of their own business — risky because while no man 
likes to be interfered with at his work by one whom 
he considers an outsider, sailors are perhaps more 
touchy upon this matter than most people. True, 
the science of navigation and seamanship was in its 
infancy, and no such gulf of knowledge separated 
landsmen from seamen in those days as existed 
afterwards, but one can easily picture the indignation 
of the commander of the ship (curiously enough here 
called the owner, the very same slang title given to 
the Captain of a man-of-war by his officers and crew 
to-day) when he heard this presumptuous passenger- 
prisoner thus daring to give his unasked advice. 


The Sea in the New Testament 

Besides, Paul's motive for wishing to remain in port 
was one easily misconstrued. 

Therefore the centurion's refusal to listen to Paul's 
suggestion was quite natural ; nay, it was inevitable. 
Still, there was evidently no intention of persevering 
with the voyage upon getting under way, only 
of entering the nearest harbour that might afford 
sufficient shelter against the fury of the winter gales. 
With a gentle southerly breeze they left Fair Havens, 
and moved along the shore. But presently down 
from the Cretan mountains Euraquilo came rushing, 
the furious Levanter, which is not surpassed in the 
world for ferocity, hurling their helpless cockle-shell 
off shore. Their fear of the storm was far greater 
than their fear of the land, for unlike the sailors of 
to-day, to whom the vicinity of land in a gale is far 
more dreaded than the gale itself, they hugged the 
small island, Clauda, and succeeded in their favourite 
manoeuvre, that of getting under the lee of the land 
once more. It was high time. The buffeting of the 
ship had weakened her to such an extent that she 
must have threatened to fall asunder, since they were 
driven actually to '^ frap " her together, that is, bind 
their cable round and round her and heave it taut — 
a parlous state of things, but one to which sailors 
have often been brought with a crazy ship in a heavy 

In this dangerous state they feared the proximity 
of hungry rocks, but instead of reducing sail and 
endeavouring to get along in some definite direction, 
they lowered down the big yard and let the ship drive 
whithersoever she would. The storm continued, the 

273 S 

A Sack of Shakings 

poor, bandaged hull was leaking at every seam, a 
portion of the cargo, called by St. Paul by its true 
nautical name ^^ freight," was jettisoned. But that did 
not satisfy them, and they proceeded to the desperate 
extremity of casting overboard the *' tackling," the 
great sail and yard, and all movable gear from the 
upper works except the anchors. 

Then in misery, with death yawning before them, 
already half drowned, foodless, and hopeless, they 
drifted for many days into the unknown void under 
that heavy-laden sky before the insatiable gale. In 
the midst of all this horror of great darkness, the 
dauntless prisoner comforted them, even while unable 
to forbear reminding them that had they hstened to 
him, this misery would have been spared them. His 
personality never shone brighter than on this occa- 
sion ; the little ascetic figure must have appeared 
Godlike to those poor, ignorant sufferers. 

At the expiration of a fortnight, the sailors surmised 
that land was near, although it was midnight. How 
characteristic is that flash of insight into the sea- 
faring instinct, and how true ! They sounded and got 
twenty fathoms, and in a little while found the water 
had shoaled to fifteen. Then they performed a piece 
of seamanship which may be continually seen in 
execution on the East African coast to-day — they 
let the anchors down to their full scope of cable 
and prayed for daylight. The Arabs do it in fair 
weather or foul — lower the sail, slack down the 
anchor, and go to sleep. She will bring up before 
she hits anything. 

Unfortunately, space will not admit of further 


The Sea in the New Testament 

dealing with this great story of the sea, so familiar 
and yet so little understood. The sailors' cowardly 
attempt at escape, the discipline of the soldiers foiling 
it, the arrangements for beaching her by the aid of 
what is here called a foresail, but was probably only 
a rag of sail rigged up temporarily to get the ship 
before the wind, and the escape of all as foretold by 
St. Paul, need much more space for dealing with 
than can be spared. 

But the one thing which makes this story go to 
the heart of every seaman is its absolute fidelity to 
the facts of sea-life ; its log-like accuracy of detail ; 
its correct use of all nautical terms. In fact, some 
old seamen go so far as to aver that St. Paul, having 
kept an accurate record of the facts, got the captain 
of the ship to edit them for him, as in no other way 
could a landsman such as Paul was have obtained 
so seaman-like a grip of the story, both in detail and 

Note. — It will of course be noted that while the general opinion 
is in favour of assigning to Luke the authorship of the narrative 
commented upon above, I have credited Paul with it. I have 
my reasons, but because of controversy I refrain from stating 



Among the many interesting features of life at sea, 
few afford studies more fruitful in valuable thought 
than the internal economy of that latest develop- 
ment of human ingenuity — a modern battleship. It 
is not by any means easy for a visitor from the 
shore, upon coming alongside one of these gigantic 
vessels, to realise its bulk ; the first effect is one of 
disappointment. Everything on board is upon a 
scale so massive, while the limpid space whereon 
she floats is so capacious that the mind refuses to 
take in her majestic proportions. And a hurried 
scamper around the various points of chief interest 
on board leaves the mind like a palimpsest where 
one impression is superimposed upon another so 
swiftly that the general effect is but a blur and 
no detail is clear. Besides, in such a flying visit 
the guide naturally makes the most of those wonders 
with which he himself is associated in his official 
capacity, and thus the visitor is apt to get a very 
one-sided view of things. Again, in the course of 
a hurried visit in harbour the mind gets so clogged 
with w^onders of machinery and design, that the 
human side, always apt to keep itself in the back- 
ground, receives no portion of that attention which 
is its due. From all of which causes it naturally 
follows that the only way in which to obtain any- 


The Polity of a Battleship 

thing like a comprehensive notion of the polity of 
a battleship is to spend at least a month on board, 
both at sea and in harbour, and waste no oppor- 
tunity of observation of every part of the ship's 
daily life that may be presented. Such opportuni- 
ties, naturally, fall to the lot of but few outside 
the Service, and from the well-known modesty of 
sailors, it is next to hopeless to expect them to 
enlighten the public upon the most interesting de- 
tails of their daily lives. 

The mere statement of the figures which belong 
to a modern battleship like the Mars, for instance, 
is apt to have a benumbing effect upon the mind. 
She displaces 14,900 tons at load draught, is 
391 ft. long, 75 ft. wide, and nearly 50 ft. deep from 
the upper deck to the bottom. She is divided into 
232 compartments by means of water-tight bulk- 
heads, is protected by 1802 tons of armour, is lit 
by 900 electric lights, steams i6\ knots, carries 82 
independent sets of engines, mounts 54 different 
cannon and 5 torpedo tubes, and is manned by 
759 men. 

Now it is only fair to say that such a hurried 
recapitulation of statistics like these gives no real 
hint as to the magnitude of the ship as she reveals 
herself to one after a few days' intimate acquaint- 
ance. And that being so, what is to be said of 
the men, the population of this floating cosmos, 
the 759 British entities ruled over by the Captain 
with a completeness of knowledge and a freedom 
from difficulty that an Emperor might well envy ? 
As in a town, we have here men of all sorts and 


A Sack of Shakings 

professions, we find all manner of human interests 
cropping up here in times of leisure, and yet the 
whole company have one feeling, one interest in 
common — their ship, and through her their Navy. 

First of all, of course, comes the Captain, who, 
in spite of the dignity and grandeur of his position, 
must at times feel very lonely. He lives in awful 
state, a sentry (of Marines) continually guarding his 
door, and although he does unbend at stated times 
as far as inviting a few officers to dine with him, 
or accepting the officers' invitation to dine in the 
ward-room, this relaxation must not come too often. 
The Commander, who is the chief executive officer, 
is in a far better position as regards comfort. He 
comes between the Captain and the actual direc- 
tion of affairs, he has a spacious cabin to himself, 
but he takes his meals at the ward-room table among 
all the officers above the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, and 
shares their merriment ; the only subtle distinction 
made between him and everybody else at such 
times being in the little word " Sir," which is 
dropped adroitly in when he is being addressed. 
For the rest, naval nous is so keen that amidst the 
wildest fun when off duty no officer can feel that 
his dignity is tampered with, and they pass from 
sociability to cast-iron discipline and back again 
with an ease that is amazing to a landsman. The 
ward-room of a battleship is a pleasant place. It 
is a spacious apartment, taking in the whole width 
of the ship, handsomely decorated, and lit by elec- 
tricity. There is usually a piano, a good library, 
and some handsome plate for the table. It is 


The Polity of a Battleship 

available not only for meals, but as a drawing- 
room, a common meeting-ground for Lieutenants, 
Marine officers, surgeons, chaplain, and senior en- 
gineers, where they may unbend and exchange 
views, as well as enjoy one another's society free 
from the grip of the collar. A little lower down 
in the scale of authority, as well as actually in the 
hull of the ship, comes the gun-room, the affix 
being a survival, and having no actual significance 
now. In this respect both ward-room and gun- 
room have the advantage over the Captain's cabin, 
in which there are a couple of quick-firing guns, 
causing those sacred precincts to be invaded by a 
small host of men at '* general quarters,'" who 
manipulate those guns as if they were on deck. 
The gun-room is the ward-room over again, only 
more so — that is, more wildly hilarious, more 
given to outbursts of melody and rough play. Here 
meet the Sub-Lieutenants, the assistant-engineers and 
other junior officers, and the midshipmen. With 
these latter Admirals in embryo we find a state of 
things existing that is of the highest service to 
them in after life. Taking their meals as gentle- 
men, with a senior at the head of the table, meet- 
ing round that same table at other times for social 
enjoyment, once they are outside of the gun-room 
door they have no more privacy than the humblest 
bluejacket. They sleep and dress and bathe — live, 
in f^ct — coram publico^ which is one of the healthi- 
est things, when you come to think of it, for a 
youngster of any class. Although they are now 
officers in H.M. Navy, they are still schoolboys, 


A Sack of Shakings 

and their education goes steadily on at stated 
hours in a well-appointed schoolroom, keeping pace 
with that sterner training they are receiving on 
deck. The most grizzled old seaman on board 
must "Sir" them, but there are plenty of cor- 
rectives all around to hinder the growth in them 
of any false pride. 

On the same deck is to be found the common room 
of the warrant officers, such as bo'sun, carpenter, 
gunner ; those sages who have worked their difficult 
way up from the bottom of the sailor's ladder 
through all the grades, and are, with the petty 
officers, the mainstay of the service. Each of them 
has a cabin of his own, as is only fitting ; but here 
they meet as do their superiors overhead, and air 
their opinions freely. But, like the ward -room 
officers, they mostly talk "shop," for they have only 
one great object in hfe, the efficiency of their charge, 
and it leaves them little room for any other topics. 
Around this, the after part of the ship, cluster also 
another little body of men and lads, the domestics, 
as they are termed, who do their duty of attendance 
upon officers and waiting at table under all circum- 
stances with that neatness and celerity that is in- 
separable from all work performed in a ship-of-war. 
Body-servants of officers are usually Marines, but 
the domestics are a class apart, strictly non-com- 
batant, yet under naval law and discipline. Going 
"forrard," the chief petty officers will be found to 
make some attempt at shutting themselves apart from 
the general, by arrangements of curtains, &c., all 
liable and ready to be flung into oblivion at the first 


The Polity of a Battleship 

note of a bugle. For the rest, their Hves are abso- 
lutely public. No one has a corner that he may call 
his own, unless perhaps it is his '' ditty box," that little 
case of needles, thread, and etceteras that he needs 
so often, and is therefore allowed to keep on a shelf 
near the spot where he eats. Each man's clothes 
are kept in a bag, which has its allotted place in a 
rack, far away from the spot where his hammock 
and bed are spirited off to every morning at 5 A.M., 
to lie concealed until the pipe ^'down hammocks" 
at night. And yet by the arrangement of '' messes " 
each man has, in common with a few others, a settled 
spot where they meet at a common table, even 
though it be not shut in, and is liable to sudden 
disappearance during an evolution. So that a man's 
mess becomes his rallying-point ; it is there that the 
young bluejacket or Marine learns worldly wisdom, 
and many other things. The practice of keeping 
all bedding on the move as it were, having no 
permanent sleeping-places, requires getting used to, 
but it is a most healthy one, and even if it were not 
it is difficult to see how, within the limited space of 
a warship, any other arrangement would be possible. 
Order among belongings is kept by a carefully gradu- 
ated system of fines payable in soap — any article 
found astray by the ever-watchful naval police being 
immediately impounded and held to ransom. And 
as every man's kit is subject to a periodical overhaul 
by officers any deficiency cannot escape notice. 

Every man's time is at the disposal of the Service 
whenever it is wanted, but in practice much leisure 
is allowed for rest, recreation, and mental improve- 


A Sack of Shakings 

ment. Physical development is fully looked after 
by the rules of the Service, but all are encouraged 
to make the best of themselves, and no efforts on 
the part of any man to better his position are made 
in vain. Nowhere, perhaps, is vice punished or 
virtue rewarded with greater promptitude, and since 
all punishments and rewards are fully public, the 
lessons they convey are never lost. But apart from 
the Service routine, the civil life of this little world 
is a curious and most interesting study. The in- 
dustrious man who, having bought a sewing-machine, 
earns substantial addition to his pay by making every 
item of his less energetic messmates' clothes (except 
boots) for a consideration, the far-seeing man who 
makes his leisure fit him for the time when he shall 
have left the Navy, the active temperance man who 
seeks to bring one after the other of his shipmates 
into line with the ever-growing body of teetotalers 
that are fast altering completely the moral condition 
of our sailors, the religious man who gets permis- 
sion to hold his prayer-meeting in some torpedo- 
flat or casemate surrounded by lethal weapons — all 
these go to make up the multifarious life of a big 

And not the least strange to an outsider is the way 
in which all these various private pursuits and varied 
industries are carried on in complete independence 
of each other, often in complete ignorance of what 
is going on in other parts of the ship. News flies 
quickly, of course, but since every man has his part 
in the ship's economy allotted to him, it naturally 
follows that he declines to bother his head about 


The Polity of a Battleship 

what the other fellows are doing. Sufficient for 
him that his particular item is to hand when re- 
quired, and that he does it as well and as swiftly as 
he is able. If he be slack or uninterested in what 
concerns himself many influences are brought to 
bear upon him. First his messmates, then his petty 
officer, and so on right up to the Captain. And 
through all he is made to feel that his laches affects 
first the smartness of his ship, then the reputation 
of the great British Xavy. So the naval spirit is 
fostered, so the glorious traditions are kept up, and 
it continues to be the fact that the slackest mobi- 
lised ship we can send to sea is able to show any 
foreign vessel-of-war a lesson in smartness that they 
none of them are able to learn. And in the naval 
battle of the future it will be the few minutes 
quicker that will win. 



Whether expressed or implied, there is certainly 
a deep-rooted idea in the minds of shore-dwellers 
that the vast fenceless fields of ocean are in these 
latter days well, not to say thickly, populated by 
ships ; that, sail or steam whither you will, you 
cannot get away from the white glint of a saiHng 
ship or the black smear along the clean sky of a 
steamship's smoke. There is every excuse for such 
an attitude of mind on the part of landward folk. 
Having no standard of comparison against which 
to range the vast lonely breadths of water which 
make up the universal highway, and being mightily 
impressed by the statistics of shipping owned by 
maritime nations, they can hardly be blamed for sup- 
posing that the privacy of the sea is a thing of the 
past. One voyage in a sailing ship to the Australasian 
Colonies or to India, if the opportunities it afforded 
were rightly used, would do far more to convince 
them of the utterly wrong notion possessing them 
than any quantity of writing upon the subject could 
effect. But unhappily, few people to-day have the 
leisure or the inclination to spend voluntarily three 
months upon a sea passage that can be performed 
in Httle more than one. Even those, who by reason 
of poverty or for their health's sake do take such 


The Privacy of the Sea 

passages, almost invariably show signs of utter weari- 
ness and boredom. As day after day passes, and 
the beautiful fabric in which they live glides gently 
and leisurely forward, their impatience grows until 
in some it almost amounts to a disease. This con- 
dition of mind is not favourable, to say the least, to 
a calm study of the characteristic features of ocean 
itself. Few indeed are the passengers, and fewer 
still are the sailors who will for the delight of the 
thing spend hour after hour perched upon some 
commanding point in wide-eyed, sight-strengthening 
gaze out upon the face of the sea. 

Upon those who do there grows steadily a sense 
of the most complete privacy, a solemn aloofness 
belonging to the seas. The infrequent vessel, gentle 
though her progress may be through the calm waters 
of the tropics, still strikes them as an intruder upon 
this realm of silence and .loneliness. The voices of 
the crew grate harshly upon the ear as with a sense 
of desecration such as one feels upon hearing loud 
conversation in the sacred peace of some huge 
cathedral. And when a vessel heaves in sight, a 
tiny mark against the skyline, she but punctuates 
the loneliness, as it were — affords a point from which 
the eye can faintly calculate the immensity of her 

Quite differently, yet with its own distinctive 
privacy, do the stormy regions of the ocean impress 
the beholder. In the fine zones the wind's presence 
is suggested rather than felt, so quiet and placid 
are its manifestations. Its majestic voice is hushed 


A Sack of Shakings 

into a murmur undistinguishable from the musical 
rippling of the wavelets into which it ruffles the 
shining sea-surface. But when beyond those regions 
of perpetual summer the great giant Boreas asserts 
himself and challenges his ancient colleague and 
competitor to a renewal of the eternal conflict for 
supremacy, there is an overwhelming sense of duality 
which is entirely absent in calmer seas. As the 
furious tempest rages unappeasable, and the solemn 
ocean wakes in mighty wrath, men must feel that 
to be present at such a quarrel is to be like some 
puny mortal eavesdropping in full Sanhedrim of 
the High Gods. Apart altogether from the imminent 
danger of annihilation, there is that sense of intrusion 
which is almost sacrilege, of daring thus to witness 
what should surely be hidden from the profane 
eyes of the sons of men. All thoughtful minds 
are thus impressed by -the combat of gale and 
sea, although their impressions are for the most 
part so elusive and shadowy that any definite fixing 
thereof is hopeless. Especially is this form of the 
solemn privacy of the sea noticeable in the Southern 
Ocean. Along the line, untraced by mortal hand 
except upon a Mercator's Chart, favoured by the 
swift sailing ships between South America and 
Australasia, the vastest stretch of ocean known is 
dotted only at enormous intervals by the fleets of 
civilisation. Day succeeds day, lengthening into 
weeks, during which the brave intruder is hurled 
upon her headlong way at the rate of eight or 
nine degrees of longitude in the twenty-four hours 


The Privacy of the Sea 

without a companion, with no visible environment 
but sea and sky. And do what the inteUigent novice 
will, he cannot divest himself of the notion, when 
drawing near the confines of New Zealand, seeing 
how minute that beautiful cluster of islands appears 
upon the chart, that it would be so easy to miss 
them altogether, to rush past them under compulsion 
of the mighty west wind, and waste long painful 
days struggling against its power to get back again 
to the overrun port. 

Once in the wTiter's own experience an incident 
occurred that seemed almost to justify such a fear. 
Only sixty days had elapsed since leaving Plymouth 
with four hundred emigrants on board, and during 
the last fortnight the west wind had blown with 
terrific violence (to a landsman). But the master, 
in calmest satisfaction, with fullest confidence in 
the power of his ship, had steadfastly refused to 
shorten sail. He seldom left the deck, the spectacle 
of his beautiful command in her maddened rush 
to the east being to him apparently sufficient 
recompense for loss of rest. At last we flew past 
the Snares, those grim outliers of the Britain of the 
South, and it became necessary to ''haul up" for 
Port Lyttelton. To do this we must needs bring 
that great wind full upon our broadside, and that, 
with the canvas we were carrying, would have meant 
instant destruction. So all hands were called, and the 
work of shortening her down commenced. Several 
of the lighter sails, at the first slackening from their 
previously rigid tension, gave one despairing flap 


A Sack of Shakings 

and vanished to join the clouds. But furious toil 
and careful skill through long hours of that dense 
night succeeded in reducing the previously great sail 
area down to three lower-topsails, reefed fore-sail, 
and fore-topmast staysail. Then after much careful 
watching of the waves that came fatefully thunder- 
ing on astern until a lull momentarily intervened, 
the helm was suddenly put down, and the gallant 
vessel swung up into the wind. Nobly done, but 
as she wheeled there arose out of the blackness 
ahead a mountainous shape with a voice that made 
itself heard above the gale. Higher and higher it 
soared until smiting the bluff of the bow it broke 
on board, a wave hundreds of tons in solid weight. 
The stout steel ship trembled to her keelson, but 
she rose a conqueror, while the avalanche of white- 
topped water rushed aft dismantling the decks, and 
leaving them, when it had subsided, in forlorn ruin. 
But she was safe. Justifying the faithfulness and 
skill of her builders, she had survived where a weaker 
ship would have disappeared, beaten out of the upper 
air like a paper boat under a stone flung from the 
bank. Slowly and laboriously we fore-reached to the 
northward, until under the lee of the land the wind 
changed, and we entered port in triumph. 

This sense of solitude induced by contemplation of 
the ocean is exceedingly marked even on the best 
frequented routes and the most crowded (?) waters. 
To enter into it fully, however, it is necessary to 
sail either in a cable ship, a whaler, or an old slow- 
going merchant sailor that gets drifted out of the 


The Privacy of the Sea 

track of vessels. Even in the English Channel one 
cannot but feel how much room there is. In spite 
of our knowledge of the numbers of ships that pass 
and repass without ceasing along what may truthfully 
be termed the most frequented highway in the watery 
world, there is an undoubtedly reasonable sense 
induced by its contemplation that however much 
the dry land may become overcrowded the sea will 
always be equal to whatever demands may be made 
upon it for space. There are many harbours in the 
world, at any rate landlocked bays that may rightly 
be called harbours, wherein the fleets of all the 
nations might lie in comfort. And their disappear- 
ance from the open sea would leave no sense of 
loss. So wide is Old Ocean's bosom. Perhaps this 
is even now more strongly marked than it was fifty 
years ago. The wonderful exactitude with which the 
steam fleets of the world keep to certain well-defined 
tracks leaves the intermediate breadths unvisited from 
year to year. They are private places whither he 
who should desire to hide himself from the eyes of 
men might hie and be certain that but for the host 
of heaven, the viewless wind, and the silent myriads 
beneath, he would indeed be alone. They are of 
the secret places of the Almighty. 

Occasionally the great steamships that lay for us 
the connecting nerves of civilisation penetrate these 
arcana, for their path must be made on the shortest 
line between two continents, heedless of surface 
tracks. And the wise men who handle these won- 
derful handmaids of science know how private are 

289 T 

A Sack of Shakings 

the realms through which they steadily steam, leaving 
behind them the thin black line along which shall 
presently flash at lightning speed the thought-essence 
of mankind. The whaler, alas ! is gone ; the old 
leisurely South Seaman to whom time was a thing 
of no moment. Her ruler knew that his best pros- 
pect of finding the prey he sought was where no 
keel disturbed the sensitive natural vibrations of the 
wave. So these vessels saw more of sea solitude 
than any others. Saw those weird spaces unvisited 
even by wind, great areas of silky surface into whose 
peaceful glades hardly rolled a gently undulating 
swell bearing silent evidence of storms raging half a 
world away. So too upon occasion did, and does, 
a belated sailing-ship, such as one we met in the 
Southern Seas bound from the United Kingdom to 
Auckland, that had been then nine months on her 
passage. Into what dread sea-solitudes she had 
intruded. How many, many days had elapsed 
during which she was the solitary point rising from 
the shining plain into the upper air. Her crew had 
a wistful look upon their faces, as of men whose 
contact with the world they dimly remembered had 
been effectually cut off. And truly to many, news 
of her safety came in the nature of a message of 
resurrection. Books of account concerning her had 
10 be reopened, mourning garments laid aside. She 
had returned from the silences, had rejoined the 
world of men. 

Ail the tracks along which ships travel are but 
threads traversing these private waters, just little 


The Privacy of the Sea 

spaces like a trail across an illimitable desert. And 
even there the simile fails because the track across 
the ocean plain is imaginary. It is traced by the 
passing keel and immediately it is gone. And the 
tiny portion of the sea-surface thus furrowed is but 
the minutest fraction of the immeasurable spaces 
wherein is enthroned the privacy of the sea. 



Not the least of the many charms exercised by the 
deep and wide sea upon its bond-servants are the 
varied voices by which it makes known its ever- 
changing moods. They are not for all ears to hear. 
Many a sailor spends the greater part of a long life 
in closest intercourse with the ocean, yet to its 
myriad beauties he is blind ; no realised sense of 
his intimacy with the immensity of the Universe 
ever makes the hair of his flesh stand up, and to 
the majestic music of the unresting deep his ears 
of appreciation are closely sealed. Not that unto 
any one of the sons of men is it ever given to be 
conversant with all the countless phases of delight 
belonging to the sea. For some cannot endure the 
call of deep answering unto deep, the terrible 
thundering of the untrammelled ocean in harmony 
with the uttermost diapason of the storm-wind. All 
their finer perceptions are benumbed by fear. And 
other some, who are yet unable to rejoice in the 
sombre glory of the tempest-tones, are intolerant of 
the lightsome glee born of zephyrs and sunlight 
when the sweet murmur of the radiant breaths is 
like the contented cooing of care-free infancy, and 
every dancing wavelet wears a many-dimpled smile. 
For them there must be a breeze of strength with 


The Voices of the Sea 

a strident, swaggering sea through which the well- 
found ship ploughs her steady way at utmost speed 
with every rounded sail distent like a cherub's cheek, 
and every rope and stay humming a merry tune. 
Least of all in number are those who can enjoy a 
perfect calm. Indeed, in these bustling, strenuous 
days of ours opportunities of so doing are daily 
becoming fewer. The panting steamship tears up 
the silken veil of the slumbering sea like some 
envious monster in a garden of sleep making havoc 
of its beauty. She makes her own wind by her 
swift thrust through the restful atmosphere, although 
there be in reality none astir even sufficient to ruffle 
the shining surface before her. 

Still, the fact must not be overlooked that many sea- 
farers do verily enjoy to the full all sea-sights and 
sea-sounds, but of their pleasures they cannot speak. 
Deep silent content is theirs, a perfect complacency 
of delight that length of acquaintanceship only makes 
richer and more satisfying, until, as the very structure 
of the Stradivarius is saturated with music, so the 
mariner's whole being absorbs, and becomes imbued 
with, the magic of wind and wave. This incom- 
municable joy a monarch might well envy its pos- 
sessor, for it is independent of environment, so that 
although the seafarer may grow old and feeble, be 
far away from his well-beloved sea, even blind and 
deaf, yet within his soul will still vibrate those re- 
sounding harmonies, and with inward eyes he can 
feast a farther-reaching vision than ever over those 
glorious fenceless fields. 


A Sack of Shakings 

The voices of the sea are many^ but their speech 
is one. Naturally, perhaps, the thought turns first 
to the tremendous chorus uplifted in the hurricane, 
that swells and swells until even the tropical thunder's 
deafening cannonade is unheard, drowned deep be- 
neath the exultant flood of song poured forth by the 
rejoicing sea. Many epithets have been chosen to 
characterise the storm-song of the ocean. None of 
them can ever hope to satisfy completely, for all 
must bear some definite reflex of the minds of their 
utterers, according as they have been impressed by 
their experiences or imaginings. But to my mind 
most of the terms used are out of place and mis- 
leading. They generally endeavour to describe the 
tempestuous sea as a ravenous monster, a howling 
destroyer of unthinking ferocity, and the like. Alas, 
it is very natural so to do. For when this feeble 
frame must needs confront the resounding main in 
the plenitude of its power, our mortal part must per- 
force feel and acknowledge its insignificance, must 
dwindle and shake with fear, although that part of us 
which is akin to the Infinite may vainly desire to 
rejoice with all seas and floods that praise Him and 
magnify Him for ever. Not in the presence of 
ocean shouting his hymn of praise may we satisfy 
our desire to join in the triumphant lay, although 
we know how full of benefits to our race are the 
forces made vocal in that majestic Lobgesang. As 
the all-conquering flood of sound, with a volume 
as if God were smiting the sapphire globe of the §1 
universe, rolls on, we may hear the cry, '^ Life and 


The Voices of the Sea 

strength and joy do I bring. Before my resistless 
march darkness, disease, and death must flee. When 
beneath my reverberating chariot-wheels man is over- 
whelmed, not mine the blame. I do but fulfil mine 
appointed way, scattering health, refreshment, and 
well-being over every living thing." 

But when as yet the sky is serene above and the 
surface of the slum.bering depths is just ruffled by a 
gentle air, there may often be heard another voice, 
as if some gigantic orchestra in another star was 
preparing for the signal to burst forth into such 
music as belongs not to our little planet. Fitful 
wailing notes in many keys, long sustained and all 
minor, encompass the voyager without and within. 
Now high, now low, but ever tending to deepen 
and become more massive in tone, this unearthly 
symphony is full of warning. It bids the watchful 
seaman make ready against the advent of the fast 
approaching storm, that, still some hundreds of 
leagues distant, is sending its pursuivants before its 
face. Nor are these spirit-stirring chords due to the 
harp-like obstruction offered by the web of rigging 
spread about the masts of a ship to the rising wind. 
It may be heard even more definitely in an open boat 
far from any ship or shore, although there, perhaps 
because of the great loneliness of the situation, it 
always seems to take a tone of deeper melancholy, as 
if in sympathy with the helplessness of the human 
creatures thus isolated from their fellows. It belongs, 
almost exclusively, to the extra-tropical regions where 
storms are many. And within a certain compass, 


A Sack of Shakings 

its intimates find little variation of its scale. Always 
beginning in the treble clef and by regular melodic 
waves gradually descending until with the incidence 
of the storm it blends into the grand triumphal 
march spoken of before. But when it is heard within 
the tropics let the mariner beware. None can ever 
mistake its weird lament, sharpening every little while 
into a shrill scream as if impatient that its warning 
should be heeded without delay. It searches the 
very marrow of the bones, and beasts as well as 
men look up and are much afraid. For it is the 
precursor of the hurricane, before which the bravest 
seaman blanches, when sea and sky seem to meet 
and mingle, the waters that are above the firmament 
with the waters that are under the firmament, as in 
the days before God said ^' Let there be light." 

Far different again is the cheerful voice of the 
Trade wind over the laughing happy sea of those 
pleasant latitudes. No note of sadness or melan- 
choly is to be detected there. Brisk and bright, 
confident and gay, it bids the sailor be glad in his 
life. Bids him mark anew how beautiful is the 
bright blue sea, how snowy are the billowy clouds 
piled peacefully around the horizon, while between 
them and the glittering edge of the vast circle shows 
a tender band of greyish green of a lucent clearness 
that lets the rising stars peep through as soon as 
they are above the horizon. Overhead through all 
the infinite fleckless dome eddy the friendly tones. 
Yet so diffused are they, so vast in their area that 
if one listen for them he cannot hear aright — they 


The Voices of the Sea 

must be felt rather than heard. Well may their 
song be of content and good cheer. For they course 
about their ordained orbits as the healthful life tides 
through the human body, keeping sweet all adjacent 
shores and preventing by their beneficent agitation a 
baleful stagnation of the sea. By day the golden 
sun soars on his splendid road from horizon to zenith 
until he casts no shadow, and all the air quivers 
with living light, then in stately grandeur sinks 
through the pure serenity of that perfect scene, the 
guardian cumuli clustering round his goal melting 
apart so that, visible to the last of his blazing verge, 
he may go as he came, unshadowed by haze or 
cloud. Then, as the radiant train of lovely rays 
fade reluctantly from the blue concave above, all 
the untenable splendours of the night come forth 
in their changeless order, their scintillating lustre 
undimmed by the filmiest veil of haze. One incan- 
descent constellation after another is revealed until, 
as the last faint sheen of the departing day dis- 
appears from the western horizon, the double 
girdle of the galaxy is flung across the darkling 
dome in all its wondrous beauty. And unceasingly 
through all the succeeding beauties of the day and 
night that flood of happy harmony rolls on. 

How shall I speak of the voice of the calm ? 
How describe that sound which mortal ear cannot 
hear ? The pen of the inspired writers alone might 
successfully undertake such a task, so closely in 
touch as they were with the Master Mind. '' When 
the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons 


A Sack of Shakings 

of God shouted for joy." Something akin to this 
sublime daring of language is needed to convey a 
just idea of what floods the soul when alone upon 
the face of the deep in a perfect calm. The scale 
of that heavenly harmony is out of our range. 
We can only by some subtle alchemy of the brain 
distil from that celestial silence the voices of angels 
and archangels and all the glorious company of 
heaven. Between us and them is but a step, but 
it is the threshold of the timeless dimension. Again 
and again I have seen men, racked through and 
through with a very agony of delight, dash aside 
the thralls that held them, sometimes with passionate 
tears, more often with raging words that grated 
harshly upon the velvet stillness. They felt the 
burden of the flesh grievous, since it shut them 
out from what they dimly felt must be bliss un- 
utterable, not to be contained in any earthen vessel. 
On land a thousand things, even in a desert, dis- 
tract the attention, loose the mind's tension even 
when utterly alone. But at sea, the centre of one 
vast glassy circle, shut in on every hand by a 
perfect demi - globe as flawless as the mirror 
whereon you float, with even the softest undulation 
imperceptible, and no more motion of the atmos- 
phere than there is in a perfect vacuum, there is 
absolutely nothing to come between the Soul of 
Man and the Infinite Silences of Creation. There 
and there only is it possible to realise what under- 
lies that mighty line, ''There was silence in Heaven 
for the space of half-an-hour." Few indeed are the 


The Voices of the Sea 

men, however rough and unthinking, that are not 
quieted and impressed by the marvel of a perfect 
calm. But the tension is too great to be borne 
long with patience. Men feel that this majestic 
environment is too redolent of the coming paradise 
to be supportable by flesh and blood. They long 
with intense desire for a breeze, for motion, for 
a change of any sort. So much so that long-con- 
tinued calm is dreaded by seamen more than any 
other phase of sea - experience. And yet it is for 
a time lovely beyond description, soothing the jar- 
ring nerves and solemnising every faculty as if one 
were to be shut in before the Shekinah in the 
Holy of Holies. It is like the Peace of God. 

Thus far I have feebly attempted to deal with 
some of the sea-voices untinctured by any contact 
with the land. But although the interposition of 
rock and beach, cliff and sand-bank introduces fresh 
changes with every variation of weather, new com- 
binations of sound that do not belong solely to the 
sea, any description of the sea-music that should 
take no account of them would be manifestly one- 
sided and incomplete. And yet the mutabilities are 
so many, the gamut is so extended that it is impos- 
sible to do more than just take a passing note of a 
few characteristic impressions. For every lonely reef, 
every steep-to shore has an infinite variety of re- 
sponses that it gives back to the besieging waves. 
Some of them are terrible beyond the power of 
words to convey. When the sailor in a crippled 
craft, his reckoning unreliable, and his vigour 


A Sack of Shakings 

almost gone by a long-sustained struggle with the 
storm, hears to leeward the crashing impact of 
mountainous waves against the towering buttresses 
of granite protecting a sea-beset land, it is to him 
a veritable knell of doom. Or when through the 
close-drawn curtains of fog comes the hissing 
tumult of breaking seas over an invisible bank, 
interpolated with the hoarse bellowing of the ad- 
vancing flood checked in its free onward sweep, 
bold and high indeed must be the courage that 
does not fail. The lonely lighthouse-keeper on the 
Bishop Rock during the utmost stress of an 
Atlantic gale notes with quickenmg pulse the 
change of tone as the oncoming sea, rolling in 
from freedom, first feels beneath it the outlying 
skirts of the solitary mountain. Nearer and deeper 
and fiercer it roars until, with a shock that makes 
the deep-rooted foundations of the rocks tremble, 
and the marvellous fabric of dovetailed stone sway 
like a giant tree, it breaks, hurling its crest high 
through the flying spindrift over the very finial of 
the faithful tower. 

But on the other hand, on some golden afternoon 
among the sunny islands of summer seas, hear the 
soft soothing murmur of the gliding swell upon 
the slumbering shore. It fills the mind with rest. 
Sweeter than lowest lullaby, it comforts and com- 
poses, and even in dreams it laps the sleeper in 
Elysium. The charm of that music is chief among 
all the influences that bind the memory to those 
Enchanted Isles. It returns again and again under 


The Voices of the Sea 

sterner skies, filling the heart with almost passion- 
ate longing to hear it, to feel it in all its mystery 
once again. Still when all has been said, every 
dweller on the sea-shore knows the voice of his 
own coast best. For him it has its special charm, 
whether it shriek around ice - laden rocks, roar 
against iron-bound cliffs, thunder over jagged reefs, 
or babble among fairy islets. And yet all these 
many voices are but one. 



When two whale-ships meet during a cruise, if 
there are no signs of whales near, an exchange of 
visits always takes place. The two captains fore- 
gather on board one ship, the two chief mates on 
board the other. While the officers are thus en- 
joying themselves, it is usual for the boats' crews 
to go forrard and while away the time as best 
they can, such visitors being always welcome. This 
practice is called ''gamming," and is fruitful of some 
of the queerest yarns imaginable, as these sea- 
wanderers ransack their memories for tales wherewith 
to make the time pass pleasantly. 

On the occasion of which I am writing, our 
ship had met the Coral of Martha's Vineyard off 
Nieuwe, and gamming had set in immediately. One 
of the group among whom I sat was a sturdy 
little native of Guam, in the Ladrone Islands, the 
picture of good-humour, but as ugly as a Joss. 
Being called upon for a song, he laughingly excused 
himself on the ground that his songs were calculated 
to give a white man collywobbles ; but if we didn't 
mind he would spin a ''cuffer" (yarn) instead. 
Carried unanimously — and we lit fresh pipes as we 
composed ourselves to hear of ''The Calling of 
Captain Ramirez." I reproduce the story in a 
slightly more intelligible form than I heard it, 



The Calling of Captain Ramirez 

the mixture of Spanish, Kanaka, &c., being a gib- 
berish not to be understood by any but those 
who have lived among the polyglot crowd in a 

''About fifteen years ago now, as near as I can 
reckon (for we don't keep much account of time 
except we're on monthly wage), I was cruising the 
Kingsmills in the old Salem, Captain Ramirez. They 
told me her name meant ' Peace,' and that may 
be ; but if so, all I can say is that never was a 
ship worse named. Why, there wasn't ever any 
peace aboard of her. Quiet there was, when the 
old man was asleep, for nobody wanted him 
wakened ; but peace — well, I tell ye, boys, she was 
jest hell afloat. I've been fishing now' a good 
many years in Yankee spouters, and there's some 
blood-boats among 'em, but never was I so unlucky 
as when I first set foot aboard the Salem. Skipper 
was a Portugee from Flores, come over to the States 
as a nipper and brung up in Rhode Island. Don't 
know and don't care how he got to be skipper, 
but I guess Jemmy Squarefoot was his schoolmaster, 
for some of his tricks wouldn't, couldn't, have been 
thought of anywheres else but down below. I 
ain't a-goin' to make ye all miserable by telling 
you how he hazed us round and starved us and 
tortured us, but you can let your imagination loose 
if you want to, and then you won't overhaul the 
facts of his daily amusements. 

''Well, I'd been with him about a year when, as 
I said at first, we was cruising the Kingsmills, never 
going too close in, because at that time the natives 

A Sack of Shakings 

were very savage, always fighting with each other, 
but very glad of the chance to go for a ship and 
kill and eat all hands. Then again we had some 
Kanakas aboard, and the skipper knew that if they 
got half a chance they would be overboard and 
off to the shore. 

^' Sperm whales were very plentiful, in fact they 
had been so all the cruise, which was another proof 
to all of us who the skipper was in co. with, for 
in nearly every ship we gammed the crowd were 
heart-broken at their bad luck. However, we'd 
only been a few days on the ground when one 
morning we lowered for a thundering big school 
of middling-size whales. We sailed in full butt, 
and all boats got fast. But no sooner was a 
strain put on the lines than they all parted like 
as if they was burnt. Nobody there ever seen 
or heard of such a thing before. It fairly scared 
us all, for we thought it was witchcraft, and some 
of 'em said the skipper's time was up and his 
boss was rounding on him. Well, we bent on 
again, second irons, as the whales were all running 
anyhow, not trying to get away, and we all got 
fast again. Twas no good at all ; all parted just 
the same as before. Well, we was about the 
worst gallied lot of men you ever see. We was 
that close to the ship that we knew the old 
man could see with his glasses everything that 
was going on. Every one of us knew just about 
how he was bearing it, but what could we do ? 
Well, boys, we didn't have much time to serlilerquise, 
for before you could say 'knife' here he comes, 


The Calling of Captain Ramirez 

jumping, howling mad. Right in among us he 
busted, and oh ! he did look like his old father 
Satan on the rampage. He was in the bow of 
his boat, and he let drive at the first whale he 
ran up against. Down went the fish and pop 
went the line same as before. Well, I've seen 
folks get mad more'n a little, but never in all my 
fishing did ever I see anything like he showed 
us then. I thought he'd a sploded all into little 
pieces. He snatched off his hat and tore it into 
ribbons with his teeth ; the rattle of Portugee 
blasphemion was like our old mincing-machine 
going full kelter, and the foam flew from between 
his teeth like soapsuds. 

" Suddenly he cooled down, all in a minute like, 
and said very quiet, 'All aboard.' We were all 
pretty well prepared for the worst by this time, 
but I do think we liked him less now than we did 
when he was ramping around — he looked a sight 
more dangerous. However, we obeyed orders smart, 
as usual, but he was aboard first. My ! how that 
boat of his just flew. 'Twas like a race for life. 

''We were no sooner on board than we hoisted 
boats and made them fast. Then the skipper yelled, 
•All hands lay aft.' Aft we come prompt, and 
ranged ourselves across the quarter-deck in front 
of where he was prowling back and forth like a 
breeding tigress. As soon as we were all aft he 
stopped, facing us, and spoke. ^Somebody aboard 
this ship's been trying to work a jolt ofi on me 
by pisonin' my lines. Now I want that man, so's 
I can kill him, slow ; 'n I'm going to have him too 

305 ^ 

A Sack of Shakings 

'thout waiting too long. Now / think this ship's 
been too easy a berth for all of you, but from this 
out until I have my rights on the man I want 
she's agoing to be a patent hell. Make up yer 
mines quick, fer I tell yer no ship's crew ever 
suffered what you're agoin' to suffer till I get that 
man under my hands. Now go.' 

'^When we got forrard we found the fo'c's'le scuttle 
screwed up so's we couldn't get below. There was 
no shelter on deck from the blazing sun, the hatches 
was battened so we couldn't get into the fore-hold, 
so we had to just bear it. One man went aft to 
the scuttle butt for a drink of water, and found 
the spigot gone. The skipper saw him, and says 
to him, 'You'll fine plenty to drink in the bar'l 
forrard,' and you know the sort of liquor that's 
full of. Some of us flung ourselves down on deck, 
being dog tired as well as hungry and thirsty, but 
he was forrard in a minute with both his shooting- 
irons cocked. ^ Up, ye spawn, 'n git some exercise ; 
ye'r gettin' too fat 'n lazy,' says he. So we trudged 
about praying that he might drop dead, but none 
of us willing as yet to face certain death by defying 
him. The blessed night came at last, and we were 
able to get a little rest, he having gone below, and 
the officers, though willing enough to keep in with 
him at our expense, not being bad enough to drive 
us all night unless he was around to see it done. 
Along about eight bells came the steward, with a 
biscuit apiece for us and a bucket of water — about 
half a pint each. We were so starved and thirsty 
that the bite and sup was a godsend. What made 


The Calling of Captain Ramirez 

things worse for us was the suspicion we had one 
of the other. As I said, we was, as usual, a mixed 
crowed and ready to sell one another for a trifle. 
He knew that, curse him, and reckoned with con- 
siderable certainty on getting hold of the victim he 
wanted. Well, the night passed somehow, and 
when morning came he was around again making 
us work, scouring iron - work bright, holy-stoning 
decks, scrubbing overside, as if our very lives de- 
pended on the jobs being done full pelt. 

"We was drawing in pretty close to a small 
group of islands, closer than we had been yet in 
those waters, and we all wondered what was in 
the wind. Suddenly he gave orders to back the 
mainyard and have the dinghy lowered. She was 
a tinv tub of a craft, such as I never saw carried 
in a whaler before, only about big enough for 
three. A little Scotchman and myself was ordered 
into her, then to our amazement the old man got 
in, shoved off, and headed her for the opening 
through the reef surrounding the biggest island of 
the group. It was fairly well wooded with cocoa- 
nut trees and low bushes, while, unlike any of 
the other islets, there were several big rocks show^- 
ing up through the vegetation in the middle of 
it. We weren't long getting to the beach, where 
we jumped out and ran her up a piece so's he 
could step out dry. We waited for a minute or 
two while he sat thinking, and looking straight 
ahead of him at nothing. Presently he jumped 
out and said to me, ^Come,' and to Sandy, 'Stay 
here.' Off he went up the beach and straight 

A Sack of Shakings 

into the little wood, just as if somebody was calling 
him and he had to go. Apparently there wasn't 
a living soul on the whole island except just us 
three. We had only got a few yards into the 
bush when we came to a little dip in the ground : 
a sort of valley. Just as we got to the bottom, 
we suddenly found ourselves in the grip of two 
Kanakas, the one that had hold of the skipper 
being the biggest man I ever saw. I made one 
wriggle, but my man, who was holding my two 
arms behind my back, gave them a twist that nearly 
wrenched them out of their sockets and quieted me 
good. As for the skipper, he was trying to call 
or speak, but although his mouth worked no sound 
came, and he looked like death. The giant that 
had him flung him on his face and lashed his 
wrists behind him with a bit of native fish-line, 
then served his ankles the same. I was tied next, 
but not so cruel as the skipper, indeed they didn't 
seem to want to hurt me. The two Kanakas now 
had a sort of a consultation by signs, neither of 
them speaking a word. While they was at^, it I 
noticed the big one was horribly scarred all over 
his back and loins (they was both naked except 
for a bit of a grass belt) as well as crippled in 
his gait. Presently they ceased their dumb motions 
and came over to me. The big one opened his 
mouth and pointed to where his tongue had been, 
also to his right eye-socket, which was empty. 
Then he touched the big white scars on his body, 
and finally pointed to the skipper. Whole books 
couldn't have explained his meaning better than I 



The Calling of Captain Ramirez 

understood it then. But what was coming ? I 
declare I didn't feel glad a bit at the thought that 
Captain Ramirez was going to get his deserts 
at last. 

''Suddenly the giant histed the skipper on his 
shoulder as if he had been a baby, and strode off 
across the valley towards the massive heap of rocks, 
followed by his comrade and myself. We turned 
sharply round a sort of gate, composed of three or 
four huge coral blocks balanced upon each other, 
and entered a grotto or cave wuth a descending floor. 
Over the pieces of rock with which the ground was 
strewed we stumbled onward in the dim light until 
we entered water and splashed on through it for 
some distance. Then, our eyes being by this time 
used to the darkness, the general features of the place 
could be made out. Communication with the sea 
was evident, for the signs of high-water mark could 
be seen on the walls of the cave just above our 
heads. For a minute or so we remained perfectly 
still in the midst of that dead silence, so deep that 
I fancied I could hear the shell-fish crawling on the 
bottom. Then I was brought a few paces nearer 
the Captain, as he hung upon the great Kanaka's 
shoulder. Taking my eyes from his death-like face 
I cast them down, and there, almost at my feet, was 
one of those enormous clams such as you see the 
shells of thrown up on all these beaches, big as a 
child's bath. Hardly had the horrible truth dawned 
on me of what was going to happen than it took 
place. Lifting the skipper into an upright position, 
the giant dropped him feet first between the gaping 

A Sack of Shakings 

shells of the big clam, which, the moment it felt 
the touch, shut them with a smash that must have 
broken the skipper's legs. An awful wail burst from 
him, the first sound he had yet made. I have said 
he was brave, and he was, too, although such a 
cruel villain, but now he broke down and begged 
hard for life. It may have been that the Kanakas 
were deaf as well as dumb ; at any rate, for all sign 
of hearing they show^ed, they were. He appealed 
to me, but I was as helpless as he, and my turn 
was apparently now to come. But evidently the 
Kanakas were only carrying out what they con- 
sidered to be payment of a due debt, for after 
looking at him fixedly for awhile, during which I 
felt the water rising round my knees, they turned 
their backs on him and led me away. I was glad 
to go, for his shrieks and prayers were awful to 
hear, and I couldn't do anything. 

''They led me to where they had first caught us, 
made me fast to a tree, and left me. Overcome 
with fatigue and hunger I must have fainted, for 
when I come to I found myself loose, lying on the 
sand, and tw^o or three of my shipmates attending 
to me. As soon as I was able to speak they asked 
me what had become of the skipper. Then it all 
rushed back on me at once, and I told them the 
dreadful story. They heard me in utter silence, the 
mate saying at last, 'Wall, sonny, it's a good job 
fer yew the Kanakers made ye fast, or yew'd have 
had a job ter clear yersef of murder.' And so I 
thought now\ However, as soon as I was a bit 
rested and had something to eat, I led them to the 


The Calling of Captain Ramirez 

cave, keeping a bright look-out meanwhile for a 
possible attack by the Kanakas. None appeared 
though, and the tide having fallen again we had no 
difficulty in finding the skipper. All that was left 
of him, that is, for the sea-scavengers had been busy 
with him, so that he was a sight to remember with 
a craw^ling at your stomach till your dying day. 
He was still fast in the grip of the clam, so it was 
decided to leave him there and get on board again 
at once. 

''We did so unmolested, getting sail on the ship 
as soon as w^e reached her, so as to lose sight of 
that infernal spot. But it's no use denying the 
fact that w^e all felt glad the skipper was dead ; 
some rejoiced at the manner of his death, although 
none could understand w^ho called him ashore or 
w^hy he obeyed. Those who had whispered the 
theory of the finish of his contract with Jemmy 
Squarefoot chuckled at their prescience, as fully 
justified by the sequel, declaring that the big Kanaka 
whom I had seen was none other than Satan himself 
come for his bargain. 

*' Matters went on now in quite a different fashion. 
The relief was so great that we hardly knew our- 
selves for the same men, and it aftected all hands 
alike, fore and aft. The secret of the breaking line 
was discovered when Mr. Peck, the mate, took the 
skipper's berth over. In a locker beneath the bunk 
he found the pieces of a big bottle, what they call 
a * carboy,' I think, and in hunting up the why 
of this a leakage through the deck was found into 
the store-room where the cordage was kept. Only 

A Sack of Shakings 

two other coils were affected by the stuff that had 
run down, and of course they were useless, but 
the rest of the stock was all right. Now, I don't 
know what it was, nor how it came there, nor any 
more about it, and if you ain't tired of listening 
I'm mighty tired of talking. Pass that 'switchel'^ 
this way." 

^ A drink of molasses, vinegar, and water. 



Far beyond the roaring track of the homeward- 
bound merchantman, he in the South Pacific the 
grim clusters of salt-whitened isles marked on the 
chart as the South Shetlands. Many years have 
come and gone since their hungry shores were busy 
with the labours of the sealers, that, disdainful of 
the terrors of snow-laden gale and spindrift-burdened 
air, toiled amid the Antarctic weather to fill their 
holds with the garments of the sea-folk. Then, after 
perils incredible, the adventurers would return to 
port, and waste in a week of debauch the fruit of 
their toil, utterly forgetful of crashing floe or hissing 
sea, frozen limbs or wrenching hunger pains. When 
all was spent they would return, resolutely forgetting 
their folly and wreaking upon the innocent seal all 
the rage of regret that ivould rise within them. 
They spared none — bull, cow, and calf alike were 
slain, as if in pure lust of slaughter, until the help- 
lessness of utter fatigue compelled them to desist 
and snatch an interval of death-like sleep, oblivious 
of all the grinding bitterness of their surroundings. 
Life was held cheap among them, a consequence, 
not to be wondered at, of its hardness and the want 
of all those things that make life desirable. And 
yet the stern existence had its own strong fascina- 
tion for those who had become inured to it. Few 

A Sack of Shakings 

of them ever gave it up voluntarily, ending their 
stormy life-struggle in some sudden ghastly fashion 
and being almost immediately forgotten. Occa- 
sionally some sorely-maimed man would survive the 
horrors of his disablement, lying in the fetid fore- 
castle in sullen endurance until the vessel reached 
a port whence he could be transferred to civilisation. 
But these unhappy men fretted grievously for the 
vast openness of the Antarctic, the gnashing of the 
ice-fangs upon the black rocks, the unsatisfied roar 
of the western gale, and the ceaseless combat with 
the relentless sea. 

Many years came and went while the Southern 
sealer plied his trade, until at last none of the 
reckless skippers could longer disguise from them- 
selves the fact that their harvest fields were rapidly 
becoming completely barren. Few and far between 
were the islets frequented by the seals, the majority 
of the old grounds being quite abandoned. One 
by one the dejected fishermen gave up the attempt, 
until in due time those gaunt fastnesses resumed 
their primitive loneliness. The long, long tempest 
roared questioningly over the deserted islands, as 
if calling for its vanished children, and refusing to 
be comforted because they were not. Years passed 
in solitude, but for the busy sea-fowl, who, because 
they had no commercial value, were left unmolested 
to eat their fill of the sea's rich harvest, and rear 
among the bleak rock-crannies their fluffy broods. 
At last, out of the midst of a blinding smother 
of snow, there appeared one day off the most 
southerly outlier of the South Shetlands a little 


Marathon of the Seals 

group of round velvety heads staring with wide, 
humid eyes at the surf-lashed fortresses of the 
shore. Long and warily they reconnoitred, for 
although many generations had passed since their 
kind had been driven from those seas, the memory 
of those pitiless days had been so steadily trans- 
mitted through the race that it had become a part 
of themselves, an instinct infallible as any other 
they possessed. No enemy appearing, they gradu- 
ally drew nearer and nearer, until their leader, a 
fine bull seal of four seasons, took his courage in 
both flippers and mounted the most promising slope, 
emerging from the foaming breakers majestically, 
and immediately becoming a hirpling heap of clumsi- 
ness that apparently bore no likeness to the graceful, 
agile creature of a few moments before. Obediently 
his flock followed him until they reached a little 
patch of hard smooth sand sheltered by a semi- 
circle of great wave-worn boulders, and admirably 
suited to their purpose. Here, with sleepless vigi- 
lance of sentinels, they rested, rather brokenly at 
first, as every incursion of the indignant sea-fowl 
startled them, but presently subsiding into ungainly 
attitudes of slumber. 

Whence they had come was as great a mystery 
as all the deep-water ways of the sea-people must 
ever be to man, or how many halting-places they 
must have visited and rejected at the bidding of 
their unerring instinct warning them that the arch- 
destroyers' visits were to be feared. However, they 
soon made themselves at home, fattening marvel- 
lously upon the innumerable multitudes of fish that 


A Sack of Shakings 

swarmed around the bases of those barren islands, 
and between whiles basking in the transient sun- 
gleams that occasionally touched the desolate land 
with streaks of palest gold. And as time went on, 
being unmolested in their domestic arrangements, 
the coming generation tumbled about the rugged 
shore in those pretty gambols that all young things 
love, learning steadily withal to take their appointed 
places in the adult ranks as soon as they had proved 
their capability so to do. Thus uneventfully and 
happily passed the seasons until the little party of 
colonists had grown to be a goodly herd, with leaders 
of mighty prowess, qualified to hold their own 
against any of their kind, and inured to combat 
by their constantly recurring battles w'ith each othen 
their love affairs, in which they fought with a fury 
astonishing to witness. 

But one bright spring morning, when after a 
full meal the females were all dozing peacefully 
among the boulders, and the pups were gleefully 
waddling and tumbling among them, there came a 
message from the sea to the fighting males, who 
instantly suspended their family battles to attend 
to the urgent call. How the news came they alone 
knew, its exact significance was hidden even from 
them, but a sense of imminent danger was upon 
them all. The females called up their young and 
retreated farther inland among the labyrinth of rocky 
peaks that made the place almost impossible for 
human travel. The males, about forty of them, 
ranged uneasily along the shore, iheir wide nostrils 
dilated and their whiskers bristling with apprehen- 


Marathon of the Seals 

sion. Ever and anon they would pause in their 
watchful patrol and couch silently as if carved in 
marble, staring seaward with unwinking eyes at the 
turbulent expanse of broken sea. Presently, within 
a cable's length of the shore, up rose an awful 
head — the enemy had arrived. Another and another 
appeared until a whole herd of several scores of 
sea-elephants were massed along the land edge and 
beginning to climb ponderously over the jagged 
pinnacles shoreward. Not only did they outnumber 
the seals by about four to one, but each of them 
was equal in bulk to half-a-dozen of the largest 
of the defenders. Huge as the great land mammal 
from whom they take their trivial name, ferocious 
in their aspect, as they inflated their short trunks 
and bared their big gleaming teeth, they hardly 
deigned to notice the gallant band of warriors who 
faced them. Straight upward they came as if the 
outlving rocks had suddenly been endowed with 
life and were shapelessly invading the dry land. 
But never an inch did the little company of de- 
fenders give back. With every head turned to the 
foe and every sinew tense with expectation they 
waited, waited until at last the two forces met. 
Such was the shock of their impact that one would 
have thought the solid earth trembled beneath 
them, and for a while in that writhing, groaning, 
roaring mass nothing could be clearly distinguished. 
Presently, however, it could be seen that the lighter, 
warier seals were lighting upon a definite plan, and 
that they carefully avoided the danger of being 
overwhelmed under the unwieldy masses of their 

A Sack of Shakings 

enemies. While the huge elephants hampered each 
other sorely, and often set their terrible jaws into 
a comrade's neck, shearing through blubber and 
sinew and bone, the nimbler seals hung on the 
outskirts of the heavy leviathans and wasted no 
bite. But the odds were tremendous. One after 
another of the desperately fighting seals fell crushed 
beneath a mammoth many times his size ; again 
and again a fiercely struggling defender, jammed 
between two gigantic assailants, found his head 
between the jaws of one of them, who would in- 
stantly crush it into pulp. Still they fought on 
wearily but unflinchingly until only six remained 
alive. Then, as suddenly as if by some instant 
agreement, hostilities ceased. The remnant of the 
invaders crawled heavily seaward, leaving the rugged 
battle-ground piled mountainously with their dead. 
The survivors sank exhausted where they had fought 
such a memorable fight, and slept securely, knowing 
well that their home was safe, the enemy would 
return no more. And the rejoicing, ravenous birds 
came in their countless hosts to feast upon the 



So mysterious are all the physical phenomena of the 
sea that it is, perhaps, hardly possible to say of any 
particular one that it is more wonderful than the 
rest. And yet one is sorely tempted thus to dis- 
tinguish when meditating upon the movements of 
the almost inconceivable mass of water which goes 
to make up that major portion of the external super- 
ficies of our planet which we call ''the sea." In spite 
of all the labours of investigators, notwithstanding 
all the care and patience which science has bestowed 
upon oceanography, it is nevertheless true that, 
except in a few broad instances, the direction, the 
rate, and the dependability of ocean currents still 
remain a profound mystery. Nor should this excite 
any wonder. If we remember how great is the 
influence over the sea possessed by the winds, how 
slight an alteration in the specific gravity of water 
is sufficient to disturb its equilibrium and cause 
masses hundreds of square miles in area to exchanc^e 
levels with the surrounding ocean, we shall at once 
admit that, except in those few instances hinted at 
which may be referred to constant causes, ocean 
currents must of necessity be still among the 
phenomena whose operations cannot be reckoned 
upon with any certainty, but must be watched for 

A Sack of Shakings 

and guarded against with the most jealous care by 
those who do business in great waters. 

Perhaps one of the commonest of the many errors 
made in speaking of marine things is that of con- 
founding current with tide. Now tide, though a 
variable feature of the circulation of the waters 
near land, is fairly dependable. That is to say, the 
navigator may calculate by means of the moon's 
age and the latitude of the place not only the time 
of high water, but knowing the mean height at full 
and change of the moon, he may and does ascertain 
to what height the water will rise, or how low it 
will fall at a certain place on a given date. True, 
a heavy gale of wind blowing steadily in or against 
the same direction of the ebbing or flowing tide 
will accelerate or retard, raise or depress, that tide 
at the time ; but these aberrations, though most 
unpleasant oftentimes to riparian householders, are 
rarely of much hindrance or danger to navigation. 
This cannot be said of the currents of the sea. 
The tides have their limits assigned to them both 
inland and off-shore, although in the latter case 
it is almost impossible to tell exactly where their 
influence becomes merged in the vaster sway of 
the ocean currents, with all their unforeseen de- 
velopments. The limits of tidal waters in rivers, on 
the other hand, being well under observation at all 
times, may be and are determined with the greatest 

With regard to the few instances of dependability 
among ocean currents, the first place will un- 
doubtedly by common consent be given to the 


Ocean Currents 

Gulf Stream. Owing its existence primarily to the 
revolution of the earth upon its axis, its outflow 
through the tortuous channel connecting the Gulf 
of Florida with the North Atlantic is more con- 
stant and steady in direction than any ebbing or 
flowing tide in the world, inasmuch as its ''set" 
is invariably upon one course. Its rate is not so 
uniform, varying somewhat with the season, but 
in the narrowest part of the channel remaining 
fairly constant at about four knots an hour. Yet 
sail but a few score leagues into the Florida Gulf 
whence this great river in the sea takes its apparent 
rise, and its influence disappears I The mariner may 
seek there in vain for that swift, silent flow which 
in the Straits of Florida sweeps him north-east- 
ward irresistibly in the teeth of the strongest gale. 
What has happened ? Does the mighty stream 
drain westward into that great land-locked sea by 
hundreds of channels from the Equatorial regions, 
but far below the surface, and, obeying some all- 
compelling impulse, rise to the light upon reaching 
the Bahama Banks, pouring out its beneficent 
flood as it comes at the rate of a hundred miles 
per day ? It sweeps into the broad Atlantic, and 
immediately spreads out into a breadth to which 
the Amazon is but a brooklet, losing its velocity 
meanwhile, until, having skirted the North American 
coast as far as the Grand Banks, it rolls in sublime 
grandeur eastward towards these ''fortunate isles." 
As it does so the mystery attendant upon it deepens. 
Its balmy presence cannot be mistaken, for the 
air on either side of it may be piercing in its keen- 

' 321 X 

A Sack of Shakings 

ness, while immediately above it there is summer. 
A gale blowing at right angles to its course will 
raise that terrible combination of waves which gives 
alike to the ^' Western Ocean " and the ^' pitch of the 
Cape" their evil reputation as the most dangerous 
in the world ; and yet who among navigators has 
ever been able to determine what, if any, rate 
of speed it has in mid-Atlantic ? Look through 
hundreds of log-books kept on board ships that 
are, perhaps, more carefully navigated than any 
others, the North Atlantic liners, and you shall not 
fmd a trace of the Gulf Stream ^^set" mentioned. 
In order to make this clear, it should be said that 
in all properly navigated ships the course steered 
and the speed made are carefully noted through- 
out the twenty-four hours ; and this course, with 
distance run, calculated from the position accurately 
fixed by observation of the celestial bodies at the 
previous noon, gives the ship's position by ^'dead 
reckoning." The ship's position being also found 
by the celestial bodies at the same time, the differ- 
ence between the latter and the ^* dead reckoning " 
position should give the '^set" and direction of 
the current for the twenty-four hours. And in 
vessels so carefully steered, and whose speed is so 
accurately known, as the great liners are, such 
current data are as trustworthy as any nautical 
data can be. But according to the records kept 
by these able navigators, there is no current setting 
eastward across the North Atlantic. Perhaps the 
explanation is that it is so very sluggish as to be 
unnoticeable, for those dreadful monuments of mis- 


Ocean Currents 

fortune to themselves and others, the dereHct ships, 
have been known to drift completely backwards 
and forwards across the Atlantic, finding not only 
a current to carry them eastward, but its counter- 
current to carry them back again. 

But who among us with the slightest smattering 
of physiography is there that is not assured that 
but for the genial w^armth of this mighty silent 
sea-river our islands would revert to their condition 
at the glacial epoch ; who is there but feels a shiver 
of dread pass over his scalp when he contemplates 
the possibility of any diversion of its life-giving 
waters from our shores ? The bare suggestion of 
such a calamity is most terrifying. 

As steady and reliable in its operations is the great 
Equatorial current which, sweeping along the Line 
from east to westward, is doubtless the fountain and 
origin of the Gulf Stream, although its operations 
among that ring of islands guarding the entrance to 
the Mexican Gulf are involved in such obscurity 
that none may trace them out. And going farther 
south, we find the Agulhas current, beloved of home- 
ward-bound sailing-ships round the Cape of Good 
Hope, pursuing its even, resistless course around the 
Southern Horn of Africa changelessly throughout 
the years. How its stubborn flow frets the stormy 
Southern Sea ! No wonder that the early navigators 
doubling the Cape outward-bound, and fearing to 
go south, believed that some unthinkable demon 
held sway over those wild waves. The passage of 
Cape Horn from east to west holds the bad emi- 
nence to-day among seafarers of being the most 

A Sack of Shakings 

difficult in the world, but what the outward passage 
around the Cape of Storms must have been before 
men learned that it was possible to avoid the stream 
of the Agulhas current by going a few degrees south 
we of these later days can only imagine. What 
becomes of the Agulhas current when once it has 
poured its volume of Indian Ocean waters into the 
Atlantic ? Does it sink below the surface some 
hundreds of fathoms, and silently, smoothly, glide 
south to the confines of the Antarctic ice barrier, 
or does it wander northward into w^armer regions ? 
In any case, it fulfils the one grand function of 
all currents, whether of air or water — the avoidance 
of stagnation, the circulation of health among the 
nations of the earth. 

Coming northward in the Pacific, let us note the 
counterpart of the Gulf Stream, the Kuro Siwo, or 
Black River of Japan, with the multitudinous isles 
of the East Indian Archipelago for its ;Caribbean 
Sea, and Nippon for its British Isles. It is, how- 
ever, but a poor competitor in benevolence with 
our own Gulf Stream, as all those who know their 
Japan in winter can testify. Others thei*e are that 
might be noted and classified if this aimed at being 
a scientific article, but these will suffice. These are 
surely wide fields enough for the imagination to 
rove in, wonderful depths of energy in plenty 
wherein the reverent and thoughtful mind may find 
all-sufficient food for its workings. Remembering 
that the known is but the fringe of the unknown, 
and that the secrets of the ocean are so well kept 
that man's hand shall never fully tear aside the veil, 


Ocean Currents 

we may patiently ponder and wonder. That great 
sea of the ancients beyond whose portals, according 
to their wisdom, lay Cimmerian darkness — what 
keeps its almost tideless waters sweet ? Unseen 
currents enter and leave by the Pillars of Hercules 
at differing levels, and could we but penetrate those 
dim regions we should doubtless find the ingress 
and egress of that incalculable mass of water pro- 
ceeding continually, the one above the other, re- 
newing from the exhaustless stores of the Atlantic 
the staleness of the great midland lake, itself appa- 
rently remaining in unchanging level. 

But when all these great well-known movements 
of the ocean have been considered, there still re- 
main an infinite number of minor divagations influ- 
enced by who knows what hidden causes. The 
submarine upheavals of central heat, when from 
out of her glowing entrails the old earth casts 
incandescent stores of lava, raising the superin- 
cumbent mass of water for many square miles 
almost to boiling-point — who can estimate the 
effect that these throes have upon the trend of 
great areas of ocean ? The almost infernal energy 
of those gyrating meteors of the tropics as they 
rage across the seas — how can any mind, however 
acute, assess the drag upon the whole body of 
surface water that is manifested thereby ? To say 
nothing of the displacement caused by the less 
violent but far more frequent stress laid upon the 
much-enduring sea by extra-tropical gales, whereby 
the baffled mariner's calculations are all overset, 
and his ship that should be careering safely in the 

A Sack of Shakings 

wide offing is suddenly dashed in ruins upon the 
iron-bound shore ! 

Great efforts have been made to lay down for the 
benefit of seafarers a comprehensive scheme of 
ocean currents all over the watery surface of the 
globe, but in the great majority of cases the guid- 
ance is delusive, the advice untrustworthy, through 
no fault of the compilers. They have done their 
best, but mean results can never help particular 
needs. And so the wary mariner, as far as may 
be, trusts to the old-fashioned three ^' L's,"— lead, 
log, and look-out ; knowing full well how little reli- 
ance is to be placed in the majority of cases upon 
any advice soever concerning the mystery of ocean 



Some of the greatest among men have spoken and 
written regarding the material progress of mankind 
as if every new invention for shortening distance, 
for economising time or labour, and increasing pro- 
duction were but another step in the direction of 
eliminating romance from the weary world. 

Especially has this been said of sea traffic. We 
are asked to believe that in the tiny vessels of 
Magalhaens, the pestilential hulls of Anson's squad- 
ron, or the cumbrous wooden walls of Trafalgar, 
there dwelt a romance which is now non-existent 
at sea — that the introduction of the steam-driven 
ship has been fatal to a quality which in truth 
belongs not at all to material things, but holds its 
splendid court in the minds of men. Do they, 
these mourners over departed romance, hold, then, 
that misery is essential to romance ? Is it essential 
to romantic interest at sea that because of the 
smallness of the ships, their lack of healthful food, 
their clumsiness of build and snail-like progress, 
men should suffer horribly and die miserably ? 
Truly, if these things are necessary in order that 
romance shall flourish, we may find them still 
amongst us both at sea and on land, though 


A Sack of Shakings 

happily in ever lessening proportion to an improved 
order of things. 

But sober consideration will surely convince us 
that as far as true romance is concerned the 
modern ironclad warship, for instance, need abate 
no jot of her claim to the three-decker of last 
century or the Great Harry of our infant Navy. 
The sight of a 15,000-ton battleship cleared for 
action and silently dividing the ancient sea in her 
swift rush to meet the foe, not a man visible any- 
where about her, but all grim, adamantine, and 
awe-inspiring — in what is she less romantic than 
the Victory under all canvas breaking the line at 
Trafalgar ? As an incentive to the exercise of the 
imagination, the ironclad certainly claims first 
place. Like some fire-breathing dragon of ancient 
fable she comes, apparently by her own volition, 
armed with powers of destruction overtopping all 
the efforts of ancient story-tellers. Yet to the 
initiated she is more wonderful, more terror- 
striking, than to the unknowing observer. For the 
former pierce with the eye of knowledge her black 
walls of steel, and see within them hundreds of 
quiet, self-possessed men standing calmly by gun- 
breech, ammunition-hoist, fire-hose, and hospital. 
Deep under the water-line are scores of fiercely 
toiling slaves to the gigantic force that actuates 
the whole mass. Hardly recognisable as human, 
sealed up in stokeholes under abnormal air pres- 
sure, the clang of their weapons never ceases as 
they feed the long row of caverns glowing white 
with fervent heat. All around them and beneath 


The Undying Romance of the Sea 

them and above, clearly to be discerned through 
all the diabolical clamour of engines and roaring 
of furnaces, is that sense of invisible forces sub- 
dued by the hand of man, yet ferociously striving 
against restraint, a sense that makes the head of 
the new-comer throb and beat in sympathy until 
it seems as if the brain must burst its containing 

Just abaft these chambers of accumulating energy 
are the giants being fed thereby. Unhappy the 
man who can see no romance in the engine-room I 
Nothing exalting, soul-stirring, in the rhythmical 
race of weariless pistons, no storm-song in their 
magnificent voices as they dash round the shaft 
at ninety revolutions per minute. Standing amid 
these modern genii, to which those of '^The 
Thousand and One Nights" are but puny weaklings, 
the sight, the senses are held captive, fascinated 
by so splendid a manifestation of the combination 
of skill and strength. And when unwillingly the 
gazer turns away, there are the men ; the grimy, 
greasy, sweat-stained men. Watchful, patient, cat- 
like. Ready at the first hint, either from the racing 
Titans themselves or from the soaring bridge away 
up yonder in the night, to manipulate lever, throttle- 
valve, and auxiliaries as swiftly, deftly, and certainly 
as the great surgeon handles his tools in contact 
with the silent, living form under his hands. 

What a lesson on faith is here. Faith in the 
workmanship of the complicated monsters they 
control, faith in one another to do the right thing 
at the right moment when a mistake would mean 


A Sack of Shakings 

annihilation, faith in the watcher above who is 
guiding the whole enormous mass amidst dangers 
seen and unseen. This, too, is no blind faith, no 
mere credulity. It is born of knowledge, and the 
consequences of its being misplaced must be 
constantly in mind in order to insure effective 
service in time of disaster. It would surely be a 
good thing if more poetry were written on the 
lines of " McAndrew's Hymn," always supposing 
the poets could be found ; greater efforts made to 
acquaint us who lead comfortable lives ashore with 
the everyday heroism of, the continual burnt- 
offering rendered by, the engineer, fireman, and 
trimmer. Perhaps we might then begin to discern 
dimly and faintly that so far from the romance of 
the sea being destroyed by the marine engine, it 
has been strengthened and added to until it is 
deeper and truer than ever. 

And as with the men in the bowels of the ship 
so with those above. Commanding such a weapon 
of war as hinted at in the preceding lines, see the 
central figure in his tower of steel, surrounded by 
telephones, electric bells, and voice-tubes. Every 
portion of the ship, with its groups of faithful, 
waiting men, is within reach of his whisper. 
Behind him stands a man like a statue but for 
the brown hands grasping the spokes of the tiny 
wheel which operates the 150 horse-power engines 
far away in the run, which in their turn heave 
the mighty steel rudder this way or that, and so 
guide the whole fabric. This man in command 


The Undying Romance of the Sea 

wields a power that makes the mind reel to con- 
sider. A scarcely perceptible touch upon a button 
at his side and away speeds a torpedo ; another 
touch, and two guns hurl 850 lbs. of steel shell 
filled with high explosive to a distance of ten miles 
if necessary. Obedience instant, perfect, yet in- 
telligent is yielded to his lightest touch, his faintest 
whisper. So too his subordinates, each in their 
turn commanding as well as being commanded, 
and each saturated with the idea that not merely 
obedience, but obedience so swift as to be almost 
coincident with the order, is essential. Yet above 
and beyond all this harmony of discipline is the 
man who controls in the same perfect way the 
working, not only of one ship, but of a whole 
fleet. He speaks, and immediately flags flutter if 
by day, or electric lights scintillate if by night. 
Each obedient monster replies by fulfilling his 
will, and the sea foams as they swoop round each 
other in complicated evolutions, or scatter beyond 
the horizon's rim to seek the common enemy. It 
is the triumph of discipline, organisation, and power 
under command. 

As it is in the Navy so it is in the Mercantile 
Marine. Here is a vessel of a capacity greater 
than that costly experiment born out of due time, 
the Great Eastern. Her lines are altogether lovely, 
curves of beauty unexcelled by any yacht afloat. 
With such perfect grace does she sit upon the 
sea that the mere mention of her size conveys 
of it no conviction. Her decks are crowded with 


A Sack of Shakings 

landward folk, for whose benefit naval architects 
and engineers have been busy devising ways and 
means of bridging the Atlantic. Every comfort 
and convenience for the poor, every luxury for 
the rich, is there. Majestically, at the stroke of 
the hour, she moves, commences her journey. 
Amid all the hubbub of parting friends, the agony 
of breaking up home bonds, the placid conductors 
of this floating city attend to their work. Theirs 
it is to convey on scheduled time from port to 
port across the trackless, unheeding ocean all 
this multitude of units, each a volume of history 
in himself or herself of most poignant interest 
could it be unfolded. And oh, the sinuous grace, 
the persistent speed, the co-partnership of affinity 
held between man's newest and God's oldest work. 
Its romance is beyond all power of speech to 
describe. Silent, speechless marvel only can be 
tendered unto it. The very regularity and order 
which prevails, the way in which arrivals may 
be counted on, these are offences in the eyes of 
some would-be defenders of romance. They are 
not apparently offended at the unerring regularity 
of natural phenomena. How is it that the same 
quality manifested by man's handiwork in rela- 
tion to the mutable sea gives occasion of stumb- 
ling ? A hard question. Not that the mere 
regularity alone is worthy of admiration, but the 
triumph of mind over matter, manifested as much in 
the grimiest little tug crouching behind a storm- 
beaten headland watching, spider-like, for a home- 


The Undying Romance of the Sea 

ward-bound sailing-ship, or in the under-engined, 
swag-bellied tramp creeping stolidly homeward, 
bearing her quota of provision for a heedless people 
who would starve without her, is everywhere to be 
held in admiration as fragrant with true romance, 
the undying romance of the sea. 



Whether there be anything in their surroundings 
at sea that makes animals more amenable to the 
taming process is, perhaps, not a question to be 
easily answered. But one thing is certain : that 
nowhere do animals become tame with greater 
rapidity than they do on board ship. It does not 
seem to make a great deal of difference what the 
animal is, whether bird or beast, carnivore or her- 
bivore, Jack takes it in hand with the most sur- 
prising results, evident in so short a time that it 
is often difficult to believe that the subject is not 
merely simulating tameness in order to exercise his 
powers upon his master or masters in an unguarded 

Of course, on board merchant ships the range 
of variety among pets is somewhat restricted. Cats, 
dogs, monkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, musk-deer, and 
birds (of sorts) almost exhaust the list ; except 
among the whale-ships, where the lack of ordinary 
subjects for taming lead men to try their hand 
upon such queer pets as walruses, white bears, 
and even seal-pups, with the usual success. Few 
pets on board ship ever presented a more ungainly 
appearance than the walrus. Accustomed to dis- 
sport its massive bulk in the helpful wave, and 
only for very brief intervals hooking itself up on 


Sailors' Pets 

to a passing ice-floe as if to convince itself that it 
really is one of the amphibia, the change in its 
environment to the smooth deck-planks of a ship 
is truly radical. And yet it has often been known not 
only to survive such a change, but to appear con- 
tented and happy therein. Its uncouth gambols with 
the sailors are not to be described ; but they are 
so funny that no one could witness them without 
laughter, especially when the sage, hoary appear- 
ance of even the most youthful walrus is remembered 
— and, of course, only very young specimens could 
possibly be obtained alive. But, after all, the morse 
has its limitations as a pet. Tamed as it often 
has been, and affectionate as it undoubtedly be- 
comes, it never survives for a great while its priva- 
tion of sea-bathing, and to the grief of its friends 
generally abandons the attempt to become per- 
manently domesticated before the end of the season. 
The white bear, on the other hand, when caught 
sufficiently young is a great success as a pet, and 
develops a fund of quaint humour as well as in- 
telligence that one would certainly never suspect 
from the appearance of the animal's head. Bears 
are notably the humorists of the animal kingdom, 
as any one may verify for himself who chooses 
to watch them for a few days at the Zoological 
Gardens, but among them all for pure fun com- 
mend us to Ursa Polaris. Perhaps to appreciate 
the play of a pet white bear it is necessary to 
be a rough and tough whaleman, since with the 
very best intentions his bearship is apt to be a 
httle heavy-pawed. And as when his claws grow 

A Sack of Shakings 

a very slight mistake on his part is apt to result 
in the permanent disfigurement of his playmate, 
his days of pethood are always cut suddenly short 
as he approaches full growth. Seal-pups have no 
such drawbacks. They are pretty, affectionate, and 
domestic, while an occasional douche of salt water 
from the wash-deck tub will suffice to keep them 
in good health and spirits for a long time. Such 
favourites do they become that it is hard to under- 
stand how the same men, who will spend much 
of their scanty leisure playing with the gentle, 
amiable creatures, can at a moment's notice re- 
sume the crude barbarity of seal-slaughtering with 
all its attendant horrors of detail. Apart from 
his cumbrous movements on deck, the seal seems 
specially adapted for a ship's pet. He is so intelli- 
gent, so fully in touch with his human playmates, 
that after a short acquaintance one ceases to be sur- 
prised at his teachability ; it is taken as a matter 
of course. 

Ordinary merchant ships are, as before noted, 
confined to a limited range of pets. Chief among 
them is the harmless necessary cat, about which 
the present writer has written at considerable length 
in a recent number of the Spectator. But the 
cat's quiet domesticity never seems to take such 
a firm hold upon seamen's affections as does the 
liveher friendship of the dog. A dog on board 
ship is truly a favoured animal. So much so 
that dogs will give themselves almost as many 
airs and graces as the one unmarried young lady 
usually does in the midst of a number of male pas- 

Sailors' Pets 

sengers, and with much the same results. Once, 
indeed, the presence of two dogs on board of a 
large ship on an East Indian voyage nearly led 
to a mutiny. They were both retrievers, the pro- 
perty of the master. But almost from the com- 
mencement of the voyage one of them, a fine 
black dog, ^' Sailor," deliberately cast in his lot 
with the men '^ forrard," where he was petted 
and spoiled, if a dog can be spoiled by petting. 
The other dog, a brown, dignified animal called 
'' Neptune," kept to the officers' quarters. And 
presently the two pets by some sort of tacit 
understanding divided the deck between them, the 
main hatch constituting a sort of neutral ground 
beyond which neither might pass without a fight. 
Now, there were also some pets on board of a 
totally different kind, to wit, three fine pigs, w^ho, 
contrary to the usual custom, were allowed to 
roam unpenned about the decks. A fellow-feeling, 
perhaps, led '^ Sailor," the forecastle dog, to fra- 
ternise with the genial swine, and the antics of 
these queerly assorted playmates gave many an 
hour's uproarious amusement. But the pigs loved 
to stray aft, far beyond their assigned limits. 
Whenever they did so, but a short time would 
elapse before '' Neptune " would bound off the 
poop, and seizing the nearest offender by the 
ear, gallop him ^'forrard" in the midst of a per- 
fect tornado of squeals and clatter of sliding hoofs. 
This summary ejectment of his friends was deeply 
resented by ^' Sailor," who, with rigid back and 
gleaming eyes, looked on as if ready to interfere 

337 Y 

A Sack of Shakings 

if ^' Neptune " should overstep the boundaries of 
his domain. One day the foreseen happened. In 
the fury of his gallop ^'forrard" Neptune reached 
the galley door before he released the pig he had 
been dragging, then suddenly recollecting himself, 
was trotting back with deprecatory demeanour, 
when he met '^Sailor" coming round the after 
end of the house. The two heroes eyed one an- 
other for a moment, but only a moment. " Sailor " 
felt doubtless that this sort of thing had gone 
far enough, and with a snarl full of fury they 
joined battle. The skipper was ^'forrard" promptly, 
armed with a belaying-pin, and seizing " Sailor " 
by the neck, began to belabour him heavily. It 
was too much for the men, who by this time 
had all gathered around. They rushed to the 
rescue of their favourite, forgetting discipline, rights 
of ownership, everything but the unfairness of the 
proceeding. The belaying-pin was wrested from 
the captain's grasp, the dogs torn apart, and with 
scowling faces the men stood confronting the 
raging skipper, who for some moments was hardly 
able to speak. When he was, he said many things, 
amongst others that he would shoot "Sailor" on 
sight; but it is perfectly certain that had he 
carried out his threat he would have had a com- 
plete mutiny on his hands. The matter blew 
over, but it was a long time before things had 
quite resumed their normal calm. A keen watch 
was kept over " Sailor " by the men for the rest 
of the voyage, lest evil should befall him. 

Monkeys are, as might be expected, popular as 


Sailors' Pets 

pets. Unfortunately, they disturb the harmony of 
a ship more than any other animal that could be 
obtained. For their weird powers of mischief come 
to perfection where there are so many past masters 
in the art of animal training, and nothing affords 
greater amusement to everybody but the sufferer 
when ''Jacko" takes it into his impish head to get 
loose and ravage the contents of some fellow's bunk 
or chest. So much is this the case that many 
captains will not allow a monkey on board their 
ship at all, feeling sure that, however peaceable a 
lot of men he may have found his crew to be 
before, one monkey passenger is almost sure to be 
the fountain and origin of many fights after his 
advent. The things that monkeys will do on board 
ship are almost beyond belief. One instance may 
be noted where a monkey in a ship named the 
Dartmouth gave signal proof of his reasoning powers. 
He was a little black fellow from Sumatra, and 
from the time of his coming on board had seemed 
homesick, playmg but few tricks, and only sub- 
mitting passively to the petting he received. Passing 
through Sunda Straits he sat upon the forecastle 
head looking wistfully at the distant land with quite 
a dejected pose of body. As we drew near the 
town of Anjer (it was before the awful convulsion 
of Krakatoa) he suddenly seemed to make up his 
mind, and springing up he covered his face with 
his hands and leapt shoreward. We were only 
going about two knots an hour, happily for him. 
He struck out vigorously for the shore, but suddenly 
realised the magnitude of his task apparently, for 


A Sack of Shakings 

he turned sharply round and swam back. One of 
the officers threw him the end of the main-topsail 
brace, which he grasped and . nimbly climbed on 
board, a wiser monkey. Thenceforward his be- 
haviour was quite cheerful and tricky, until his 
lamented demise from a chill caught off the Cape. 
Goats, again, are great favourites on board ship, 
when they have been taught to let the running gear 
alone. But their inveterate habit of gnawing every- 
thing largely discounts their amiability. The pretty 
little mongoose, too, until he begins to fraternise 
with his natural enemies, the rats, is a most pleasant 
companion, full of play, and cleanly of habit. So is 
the musk-deer, but it is so delicate that few indeed 
of them reach home that are bought by sailors 
among the islands of the East Indian Archipelago. 
The same fate overtakes most of the birds, except 
canaries, that sailors buy abroad, and teach on the 
passage home no end of tricks. Yet deeply as 
these exotic pets are loved by forecastle Jack, and 
great as is the pleasure he undoubtedly derives 
from them, the majority of them fall into the hands 
of Jamrach and Cross, or other keen dealers in 
foreign birds and beasts, when the ship reaches 
home. For it is seldom poor Jack has a home 
whereto he may bring his pets. *- 




Evening was just closing in, heralded by that 
indescribable feeling of refreshment in the torrid 
air always experienced at sea near the Equator 
when the sun is about to disappear. The men in 
the ^' crow's nests " were anxiously watching the 
declining orb, whose disappearance would be the 
signal for their release from their tedious watch. 
But to the chagrin of every foremast hand, before 
the sun had quite reached the horizon, the officer 
up at the mainmast head, taking a final compre- 
hensive sweep with his glasses all around, raised 
the thrilling cry of ^' Bio— o — o — o — w." And de- 
spite the lateness of the hour, in less than ten 
minutes four boats were being strenuously driven 
in the direction of the just-sighted whale. For- 
getting for awhile their discontent at the prospect 
before them, the crews toiled vigorously to reach 
their objective, although not a man of them but 
would have rejoiced to lose sight of him. It was 
not so to be. At another time he would probably 
have been startled by the clang of the oars as 
they turned in the rowlocks, but now he seemed 
to have lost his powers of apprehension, allowing 
us to come up with him and harpoon him with 
comparative ease. The moment that he felt the 
prick of the keen iron, all his slothfulness seemed 


A Sack of Shakings 

to vanish, and without giving one of the other 
boats a chance to get fast also, he milled round 
to windward, and exerting all his vast strength, 
rushed off into the night that came up to meet 
us like the opening of some dim portal into the 
unknown. Some little time was consumed in our 
preparations for the next stage of our proceedings, 
during which the darkness came down upon us 
and shut us in with our prey, blotting out our 
ship and the other boats from the stinted horizon 
left to us, as if they had never been. By some 
oversight no compass was in our boat, and, a rare 
occurrence in those latitudes, the sky was over- 
cast so that we could not see the stars. Also there 
was but little wind, our swift transit at the will of 
the whale alone being responsible for the breeze 
we felt. On, on we went in silence except for the 
roar of the parted waters on either hand, and 
unable to see anything but the spectral gleam 
ahead whenever the great mammal broke water to 
spout. Presently the headlong rush through the 
gloom began to tell upon everybody's nerves, and 
we hoped, almost prayed for a slackening of the 
relentless speed kept up by the monster we had 
fastened ourselves to. The only man who appeared 
unmoved was the second mate, who was in charge. 
He stood in the bows as if carved in stone, one 
hand grasping his long lance and the other resting 
on his hip, a stern figure whose only sign of life 
was his unconscious balancing to the lively motion 
of the boat. Always a mystery to us of the crew, 
he seemed much more so now, his inscrutable 


The Survivors 

figure dimly blotched against the gloom ahead, and 
all our lives in his hand. For a year we had been 
in daily intercourse with him, yet we felt that we 
knew no more of the man himself than on the 
first day of our meeting. A strong, silent man, 
who never cursed us as the others did, because 
his lightest word carried more weight than their 
torrents of blasphemy, and withal a man who came 
as near the seaman's ideal of courage, resourceful- 
ness, and tenacity as w^e could conceive possible. 
Again and again, as we sped onwards through the 
dark, each of us after his own fashion analysed 
that man's character in a weary purposeless round 
of confused thought, through the haze of which 
shot with dread persistence the lurid phrase, ''a 
lost boat." How long we had thus been driving 
blindly on none of us could tell — no doubt the 
time appeared enormously prolonged — but when 
at last the ease-up came we were all stiff with our 
long constraint of position. All, that is, but Mr. 
Neville our chief, who, as if in broad day within 
a mile of the ship, gave all the necessary orders 
for the attack. Again we were baffled, for in spite 
of his unprecedented run the whale began to sound. 
Down, down he went in hasteless determined fashion, 
never pausing for an instant, though we kept all 
the strain on the hne that was possible, until the 
last flake of our 300 fathom^s left the tub, slithered 
through the harpooner's fingers round the logger- 
head, and disappeared. Up flew the boat's head 
with a shock that sent us all flying in different 
directions, then all was silent. Only for a minute. 


A Sack of Shakings 

The calm grave tones of Mr. Neville broke the 
spell by saying, ^' Make yourselves as comfortable 
as you can, lads, we can do nothing till daylight 
but watch for the ship." We made an almost 
whispered response, and began our watch. But it 
was like trying to peer through the walls of an 
unlit cellar, so closely did the darkness hem us in. 
Presently down came the rain, followed by much 
wind, until, notwithstanding the latitude, our teeth 
chattered with cold. Of course we were in no 
danger from the sea, for except in the rare hurri- 
canes there is seldom any wind in those regions 
rising to the force of a gale. But the night was 
very long. Nor did our miserable anticipations tend 
to make our hard lot any easier. 

So low did we feel that when at last the day 
dawned we could not fully appreciate the signifi- 
cance of that heavenly sight. As the darkness fled, 
however, hope revived, and eager eyes searched 
every portion of the gradually lightening ring of 
blue of which we were the tiny centre. Slowly, 
fatefully, the fact was driven home to our hearts 
that what we had feared was come to pass ; the 
ship was nowhere to be seen. More than that, 
we all knew that in that most unfrequented stretch 
of ocean months might pass without signs of vessel 
of any kind. There were six pounds of biscuits 
in one keg and three gallons of water in another, 
sufficient perhaps at utmost need to keep the 
six of us alive for a week. We looked in one 
another's faces and saw the fear of death plainly 
inscribed ; we looked at Mr. Neville's face and 


The Survivors 

were strengthened. Speaking in his usual tones, 
but with a curiously deeper inflexion in them, he 
gave orders for the sail to be set, and making an 
approximate course by the sun, we steered to the 
N.W. Even the consolation of movement was 
soon denied us, for as the sun rose the wind sank, 
the sky overhead cleared and the sea glazed. A 
biscuit each and half-a-pint of water was served 
out to us and we made our first meal, not without 
secretly endeavouring to calculate how many more 
still remained to us. At Mr. Neville's suggestion 
we sheltered ourselves as much as possible from 
the fierce glare of the sun, and to keep off thirst 
poured sea-water over one another at frequent 
intervals. Our worst trial for the present was 
inaction, for a feverish desire to be doing — some- 
thing — no matter what, kept our nerves twitching 
and tingling so that it was all we could do to keep 

After an hour or two of almost unbroken silence 
Mr. Neville spoke, huskily at first, but as he went 
on his voice rang mellow and vibrant. ^' My lads," 
he said, ''such a position as ours has been occupied 
many times in the history of the sea, as you all 
well know. Of the scenes that have taken place 
when men are brought by circumstances like these 
down from their high position in the scale of 
Creation to the level of unreasoning animals, we 
need not speak ; unhappily such tragedies are too 
clearly present in the thoughts of every one of 
us. But in the course of my life I have many 
times considered the possibilities of some day being 


A Sack of Shakings 

thus situated, and have earnestly endeavoured to 
prepare myself for whatever it had in store for 
me. We are all alike here, for the artificial differ- 
ences that obtain in the ordinary affairs of life 
have dropped away from us, leaving us on the 
original plane of fellow-men. And my one hope 
is, that although we be of different nationalities, 
and still more widely different temperaments, we 
may all remember that so long as we wrestle man- 
fully with the beast that is crouching in every 
one of us, we may go, if we must go, without 
shame before our God. For consider how many 
of those who are safe on shore this day are groan- 
ing under a burden of life too heavy to be borne, 
how many are seeking a refuge from themselves 
by the most painful byways to death. I am per- 
suaded, and so are all of you, if you give it a 
thought, that death itself is no evil ; the anticipation 
of pain accompanying death is a malady of the 
mind harder to bear by many degrees than physical 
torture. What I dread is not the fact of having 
to die, although I love the warm light, the glorious 
beauty of this world as much as a man may, but 
that I may forget what I am, and disgrace my 
manhood by letting myself slip back into the slough 
from which it has taken so many ages to raise me. 
Don't let us lose hope, although we need not ex- 
pect a miracle, but let each of us help the other 
to be a man. The fight will be fierce but not 
long, and when it is won, although we may all 
live many days after we shall not suffer. Another 
thing, perhaps some of you don't believe in any 


The Survivors 

God, others believe mistily in they know not what. 
For my part I believe in a Father-God from whom 
we came and to whom we go. And I so think 
of Him that I am sure He will do even for an 
atom like me that which is not only best for me 
but best for the whole race of mankind as re- 
presented in me. He will neither be cruel nor 
forget. Only I must endeavour to use the powers 
of mind and body He has given me to the best 
advantage now that their testing-time has come." 

With eyes that never left that calm strong face 
we all hung upon his words as if we were absorbing 
in some mysterious way from them courage to 
endure. Of the five of us, two were Scandinavians, 
a Swede and a Dane, one, the harpooner, was an 
American negro, one was a Scotchman, and myself, 
an Englishman. Mr. Neville himself was an American 
of old Puritan stock. When he left speaking there 
was utter silence, so that each could almost hear 
the beating of the other's heart. But in that silence 
every man of us felt the armour of a high resolve 
encasing him, an exalting courage uplifting him, and 
making his face to shine. 

Again the voice of our friend broke the stillness, 
this time in a stately song that none of us had 
ever heard before, '^O rest in the Lord!" From 
thenceforward he sang almost continually, even 
when his lips grew parched with drought, although 
each of us tendered him some of our scanty 
measure of water so that he might still cheer us. 
Insensibly we leant upon him as the time dragged 
on, for we felt that he was a very tower of strength 


A Sack of Shakings 

to us. Five days and nights crept away without 
any sign of change. Patience had become a 
habit with us, and the scanty allowance of food 
and drink had so reduced our vitality that we 
scarcely felt any pain. Indeed the first two days 
were the worst. And now the doles became 
crumbs and drops, yet still no anger, or peevish- 
ness even, showed itself. We could still smile 
sanely and look upon each other kindly. Then a 
heavy downpour of rain filled our water-breaker 
for us, giving us in the meantime some copious 
draughts, which, although they were exquisitely 
refreshing at the time, racked us with excruciating 
pains afterwards. The last crumb went, and did 
not worry us by its going, for we had arrived 
by easy stages at a physical and mental condition 
of acquiescence in the steady approach of death 
that almost amounted to indifference. With a 
strange exception ; hearing and sight were most 
acute, and thought was busy about a multitude of 
things, some of them the pettiest and most trivial 
that could be imagined, and others of the most 
tremendous import. Speech was difficult, impossible 
to some, but on the whole we must have felt 
somewhat akin to the Hindu devotees who with- 
draw themselves from mankind and endeavour to 
reduce the gross hamperings of the flesh until 
they can enter into the conception of the unseen 
verities that are about us on every side. What 
the mental wrestlings of the others may have been 
they only knew; but to outward seeming we had 
all been gently gliding down into peace. 


The Survivors 

The end drew near. Nothing occurred to stay 
its approach. No bird or fish came near enough 
to be caught until we were all past making an 
effort had one been needed. We had lost count 
of time, so that I cannot say how long our solitude 
had lasted, when one brilliant night as I lay in a 
state of semi-consciousness, looking up into the 
glittering dome above, I felt a hand touch me. 
Slowly I turned my head, and saw the face of 
the negro -harpooner, who lay by my side. I 
dragged my heavy head close to his and heard 
him whisper, ^' I'm a goin' an I'm glad. What he 
said wuz true. It's as easy as goin' ter sleep. 
So long." And he went. What passed thereafter 
I do not know, for as peacefully as a tired man 
settles himself down into the cosy embrace of a 
comfortable bed, heaving a sigh of utter content as 
the embracing rest relaxes the tension of muscles and 
brain, I too slipped down into dreamless slumber. 

I awoke in bitter pain, gnawing aches that left 
no inch of my body unwrung. And my first taste 
of life's return gave me a fierce feeling of resent- 
ment that it would all have to be gone through 
again. I felt no gratitude for life spared. That 
very night of my last consciousness the whaler 
that rescued us must have been within a few 
miles, for when we were sighted from her crow's- 
nest at daybreak we were so near that they could 
distinguish the bodies without glasses. There were 
only three of us still alive, the fortunate ones who 
had gone to their rest being Mr. Neville, the 
harpooner, and the Swede. The rescuers said 


A Sack of Shakings 

that except for the emaciated condition of our 
bodies we all looked like sleepers. There were 
no signs of pain or struggle. It was nearly two 
months before we who had thus been brought 
back to a life of care and toil were able to resume 
it, owing to our long cramped position as much 
as to our lack of strength. I believe, too, that 
we were very slow in regaining that natural will-to- 
live which is part of the animal equipment, and 
so necessary to keep off the constant advances of 
death. And, like me, my companions both felt 
that they could not be grateful for being dragged 
back to life again. 



While the whaler to which I belonged was lying 
at Honolulu I one day went ashore for a long 
ramble out of sight and hearing of the numerous 
questionable amusements of the town, and late 
in the afternoon found myself several miles to 
the southward of it. Emerging from the tangled 
pathway through which I had been struggling with 
the luxuriant greenery, I struck the sand of a 
lovely little bight that commanded an uninterrupted 
view to seaward. Less than a mile out a reef 
of black rocks occasionally bared their ugly fangs 
for a brief space amidst the sleek waters, until 
the sleepily advancing swell, finding its progress 
thus hindered, rose high over their grim summits 
in a league-long fleece of dazzling foam, whose 
spray glittered like jewels in the diagonal rays of the 
declining sun. 

Upon a little knoll left by the receding tide 
sat a man staring stolidly out to sea. As I drew 
near, my approach making no noise upon the 
yielding sand, I saw that he was white. By his 
rig — a shirt and trousers, big grass hat, and bare 
feet — I took him for a beach-comber. These char- 
acters are not often desirable companions — human 
weeds cast ashore in such places, and getting a 
precarious living in dark and devious ways without 

A Sack of Shakings 

work. But I felt inclined for company and a 
rest after my long tramp, so I made for him direct. 
He raised his head at my nearing him, showing a 
grizzled beard framing a weather-beaten face as 
of a man some sixty years old. There was a 
peculiar, boiled look about his face, too, as if he 
had once been drowned, by no means pleasant 
to see. 

He gave me ^' Good evening ! " cheerfully enough 
as I sat down beside him and offered my plug 
of tobacco. Cutting himself a liberal quid, he 
returned it with the query, " B'long ter wun er 
the spouters, I persoom ? " '' Yes," I replied ; 
^' boat -header in the Cachalot." ''Ah," he replied 
instantly, '' but yew're no Yank, neow, air ye ? " 
''No, I'm a Cockney— little as you may think that 
likely," said I; "but it's a fact." "Wall, I don'no," 
he drawled, "I've a-met Cockneys good's I want 
ter know ; 'n' why not ? " 

The conversation then drifted desultorily from 
topic to topic in an aimless, time-killing fashion, 
till at last, feeling better acquainted, I ventured 
to ask him what had given him that glazy, soaked 
appearance, so strange and ghastly to see. "Look 
a-heah, young feller," said he abruptly, "heouw 
old je reckon I mout be?" Without the slightest 
hesitation I replied, " Sixty, or thereabouts." He 
gave a quiet chuckle, and then said slowly, "Wall, 
I doan' blame ye, nuther ; 'n' as to feelin'— wall, 
sumtimes I feel 's if I'd ben a-livin' right on 
frum the beginnin' ov things. My age, which 's 
about the one solid fact I kin freeze outer now'days, 

Beneath the Surface 

is thutty-two. Yew won't b'lieve it, of course ; but 
thet's nothin' ter what ye will hear, ef yew wait 

''What I'm goin' ter tell ye happened— lemme see 
— wall, I doan'no — mebbe two, mebbe four er five 
year sence. I wuz mate of a pearlin' schooner 
b'longin' ter Levuka, lyin' daouwn to Rotumah. 
Ware we'd ben workin' the reef wuz middlin' deep 
— deep 'nuf ter make eour b'ys fall on deck when 
they come up with a load, 'n' lie there like dead 
uns fer 'bout ten minnits befo' they k'd move ag'in. 
Twuz slaughterm' divin' ; but the shell wuz thick, 
'n' no mistake ; 'n' eour ole man wuz a hustler — 
s'long's he got shell he didn't vally a few dern 
Kanakers peggin' eout neow 'n' then. We'd alost three 
with sharks, 'n' ef 'twan't thet th' b'ys wuz more 
skeered of old Hardhead than they wuz of anythin' 
else I doan reckon we sh'd a-got any more stuff thet 
trip 't all. But 'z he warn't the kind er blossom to 
play any games on, they kep' at it, 'n' we 'uz fillin' 
up fast. The land was 'bout ten mile off, 'n' they 
w^uz 'bout fifty, er mebbe sixty fathom water b'tween 
the reef we wuz fishin' on 'n' the neares' p'int. 
Wall, long 'bout eight bells in the afternoon I uz 
a-stannin' by the galley door watchin' a Kanaker 
crawlin' inboard very slow, bein' 'most done up. 
Five er six ov 'em uz hangin' roun' 'bout ter start 
below agen, 'n' th' ole man uz a-blarsfemion gashly 
at 'em fer bein' so slow. Right in the middle of his 
sermont I seed 'im go green in the face, 'n' make a 
step back from the rail, with both bans belt up in 
front ov 'im 's if he uz skeered 'most ter de'th. 'N' he 

353 z 

A Sack of Shakings 

wuz, too. There cum lickin' inboard after him a 
long grey slitherin' thing like a snake 'ith no head 
but a lot uv saucers stuck onto it bottom up. 'N' 
befo' I'd time ter move, bein' 'most sort er paralised, 
several more ov the dern things uz a-sneakin' around 
all over the deck. The fust one got the skipper good 
'n' tight 'ith a round turn above his arms, 'n' I saw 
him a-slidin' away. The schooner wuz a-roUin' 's if 
in a big swell — which there warn't a sign of, 's I c'd 
see. But them snaky grey things went quicker 'n' 
thinkin' all over her, 'n' befo' yew c'd say ^ knife' 
every galoot, includin' me, wuz agoin' 'long with 'em 
back to where they'd come from. 

^' Say, d'yew ever wake up all alive, 'cep' yew 
couldn' move ner speak, only know all wuts goin' on, 
'n' do the pow'flest thinkin' 'bout things yew ever did 
in yer life ? Yes, 'n' that's haow I wuz then. When 
thet cold gristly sarpint cum cuddlin' roun' me, 'n' 
the saucers got onto me 's if they'd suck out me very 
bow'ls, I'd a gi'n Mount Morgan ter died ; but I 
couldn't ev'n go mad. I saw the head ov the Thing 
them arms b'long'd ter, 'n' 'twuz wuss 'n the horrors, 
'cause I wuz sane 'n' cool 'n' collected. The eyes 
wuz black, 'n' a foot or more across, 'n' when I looked 
into 'em I see meself a-comin'." 

He was silent for a minute, but shaking as if 
with palsy. I laid my hand on his arm, not 
knowing what to say, and he looked up wistfully, 
saying, ^* Thenks, shipmate ; thet's good." Then 
he went on again. 

"The whole thing went back'ards, takin' us 
along ; 'n I remember thinkin' ez we went of 


Beneath the Surface 

the other Kanakers below thet hedn't come back. 
I he'rd the bubbles 's each of us left the sun- 
shine, but never a cry, never another soun'. The 
las' thing I remember seein' 'bove me wuz th' 
end of the schooner's mainboom, which wuz 
guyed out to larberd some, 'n' looked like a big 
arm struck stiff an' helpless, though wishful to 
save. Down I went, that clingin' snaky coil 
round me tighter 'n my skin. But wut wuz 
strangest ter me wuz the fact that not only I 
didn't drown, but I felt no sort er disconvenience 
frum bein' below the water. 'N' at last when 
I reached the coral, though I dessay I looked 
corpse enough, 'twuz only my looks, fur I felt, 
lackin' my not bein' able ter move, breathe, er 
speak, ez peart 'n' fresh ez I dew naow. The 
clutch thet hed ben squeezin' me so all-fired 
tight begun to slack, 'n' I felt more comf'ble ; 'n' 
ef 't 'adn't ben fer the reck'lection uv them eyes 
'n' thet berryin'-groun' ov a mouth, I doan'no 
but wut I might ha' been a'most happy. But I 
lay thar, with the rest uv my late shipmates, sort 
er ready fer consumpshun, like the flies in the 
corner of a spider's web ; 'n' thet guv me a 
pow'ful heap ov a bad time. 

^^ After a while the quiet of the place begun 
ter breed strange noshuns in my hed — jest like 
's if I wuz dreamin', though wide awake 's ever I 
wuz in all my life. I jest 'peared to be 'way 
back at the beginnin' uv things, befo' they wuz 
anythin' else but water, 'n' wut life there wuz in 
them early days hed ter dew 'ithout air er sun er 


A Sack of Shakings 

light. I'd read the Bible some — not ter say 
frequent, 'n', bein' but a poor skollar, Jennersez 
wuz 'bout 's fur 's I got. But onct a Blue-nose 
I uz shipmates with wuz pow'ful fond uv one er 
the Bible yarns he called the Book of Jobe, 'n' 
he use' ter read thet off ter me 'twell I nearly 
got it through my he'd solid. Anyway, much 
ov it kem back ter me neow — bits 'beout the 
foundayshons ov the world, 'n' the boun's ov 
the sea, 'n' suchlike. 

"'N' all the time overright me in the mouth ov a 
gret cave, with them res'less thutty-foot feelers ever 
a-twistin' 'n' wrigglin' aroun', wuz the Thing itself, 
them awful eyes jest a-showin', like moons made ov 
polished jet, in the dimness. Some ov my ship- 
mates wuz gone, the skipper among 'em ; but some, 
like me, wuz layin' quiet 'n' straight ; while all 
about us the fish, ov every shape 'n' size, wuz 
a-gliden' slow 'n' stealthy, like as if ever on the watch 
'gainst some enemy er anuther. 

'^ It seemed so long I laid thar thet I felt able to 
remember every bush 'n' bough ov coral, every 
boulder, that in queerest shapes yew ever see lay 
scattered aroun'. At last, never havin' quite los' 
sight of thet horrible ungodly Thing in the cave 
yander, I see It kem eout. I never knowed thar 
wuz a God till then. Sence thet time, whenever I 
hear some mouthy critter provin ez he calls it, 
poor child ! thet ther ain't, 'n' cain't be, any God, 
I feel thet sorry fer him I c'd jest sail right in 'n' 
lam the foggy blether out'n his fool-skull. But ez 
I wuz a-sayin, eout kem the Thing till I see the 

Beneath the Surface 

hull gret carcass ov It, bigger 'n the bigges' sparm 
whale I ever see, jest a haulin' 'n' a warpin' along 
by them wanderin' arms over the hills 'n' hallers 
ov the reef fords me. It floated between me 'n' 
wut light ther wuz, which wuz suthin' ter be thank- 
ful fer, fer I'd a gi'n my Hfe ter be able to shet my 
eyes from it 'n' wut wuz comin'. It hung right 
over me, 'n' I felt the clingin' suckers closin' all 
aroun' me, when all of a sudden they left me ag'in. 
The gret black shadder moved ter one side 'n' 
daown through that clear water cum a sparm whale, 
graceful 'n' easy's an albacore. I never thought 
much of old squar'head's looks before, but I'm 
tellin' ye, then he looked like a shore-nough angel 
'longside thet frightful crawlin' clammy bundle of 
sea sarpients. 

" But I hedn't much time ter reflec', fer thet 
whale had come on bizness, 'n' ther wa'n't any per- 
crastinatni' 'bout him. When he got putty cluss up 
to the Thing that wuz backin' oneasily away, he 
sorter rounded to like a boat comin' 'longside, only 
'sted ov comin" roun' he come over, clar he'd over 
flukes. His jaw wuz hangin' daown baout twenty 
foot with all the big teeth a shinin', 'n' next I knew 
he'd got thet gol-durned Thing in his mouth with a 
grip right behin' them awful Eyes. Roun' come 
the tangle of arms like the sails of a windmill lacin', 
clutchin', tearin' at the whale's head. But thev 
might so well hev hugged the Solander Rock. It 
made no sorter diffrunce ter him, 'n' his jaw kep' 
on workin' fer all it wuz worth a-sawin' off the 
tremenjus he'd of the Thing. Then the light went 


A Sack of Shakings 

eout. My gosh ! thet water wuz jest turned inter 
ink, 'n' though yew c'd feel the sway 'n' swirl ov 
thet gret struggle like the screw race ov some big 
liner ther wa'n't nothin' ter be seen. So I reckon 
the Thing I'd been puzzlin' ter fine a name fer wuz 
jest the Gret Mogul ov all the cuttle-fish, 'n' bein' 
kinder hard prest wuz a-sheddin' the hull contents 
ov his ink-tank. 

^'Wall, I wuz sorter int'rested in this mush 'n' 
very much wanted ter see it through, but thet satis- 
facshun wuz denied me. All the churnin' 'n' 
thrashin' went on jest above me in pitch-dark 'n' 
grave-quiet. Bimeby the water ceased to bile aroun' 
'n' got clearer, till after a while I c'd see gret 
shadders above movin' swiffly. The sea took on 
anuther colour quite femiliar ter me, sorter yaller, 
a mixin' ov red 'n' blue. Funniest thing wuz the 
carm way I wuz a takin' ov it all, jest like a man 
lookin' out'n a b'loon at a big fight, er a spectayter 
in a g'lanty show hevin' no pusnal concern in the 
matter 't all. Presently sneakin along comes a white 
streak cluss ter me. Long befo' it touched me I 
knew it fer wut it wuz, 'n' then I wuz in de'dly 
fear less the hope uv life after all sh'd rouse me 
eout uv thish yer trance or whatever it wuz. 'Twuz 
a whale-line frum some whaleship's boat a-fishin' 
overhe'd. It kem right to me. It teched me 'n' 
I felt 's'if I must come to 'n' die right there 'n' 
then. But it swep' right under me, 'n' then settled 
daown coil after coil till I wuz fair snarled erp in 
it. By this time the water'd got so soupy thet I 
could'n' see nothin', but 'twa'n't long befo' I felt 


Beneath the Surface 

myself a-risin* — eout uv the belly uv Hell ez 
Jonah sez. 

^* Up I kem at a good lick till all uv a sudden I 
sees God's light, smells His air, 'n' hears voices uv 
men. Gosh, but wa'n't they gallied when they see 
me. Blame ef I did'n' half think they'd lemme go 
ag'in. The fust one ter git his brains ter work wuz 
the bow oarsman, a nigger, who leaned over the 
gunnel, his face greeny-grey with fright, 'n' grabbed 
me by the hair. Thet roused the rest, 'n' I wuz 
hauled in like a whiz. Then their tongues got ter 
waggin', 'n' yew never heard so many fool things 
said in five minutes outside er Congress. 

'' It didn' seem ter strike any ov 'em thet I 
moutn't be so very dead after all, though fortnitly 
fer me they conclooded ter take me aboard with 
'em. So I laid thar in the bottom ov the boat 
while they finished haulin' line. Ther wuz a clumsy 
feller among 'em thet made a slip, hittin' me an 
ugly welt on the nose as he wuz fallin'. Nobody 
took any notice till presently one ov 'em hollers, 
'Why dog my cats ef thet corpse ain't got a nose- 
bleed.' This startled 'em all, fer I never met a 
galoot so loonv ez ter think a de'd man c'd bleed. 


How^s'ever they jest lit eout fer the ship like sixty 
'n' h'isted me aboard. 'Twuz er long time befo' 
they got my works a-tickin' ag'in, but they done it 
at last, 'n' once more I wuz a livin' man amon' 
livin' men. 

*' Naow ov course yew doan' b'lieve my yarn — 
yew cain't, tain't in nacher, but, young feller, thar's 
an all-fired heap o' things in the world that cain't 


A Sack of Shakings 

be beleft in till yew've 'speriunced 'em yerself thet 
's trew 's gospel fer all thet." 

I politely deprecated his assumption of my dis- 
belief in his yarn, but my face belied me, I know ; 
so, bidding him ^'S'long" with a parting present of 
my plug of tobacco (it was all I had to give), I left 
him and by the failing light made all speed I could 
back to my ship. 




Hans Neilsen was a big Dane, with a great 
wave of blond beard blowing from just below 
his pale blue eyes, and a leonine head covered 
with a straw - coloured mane. Although he was 
a giant in stature he was not what you would 
call a fine figure of a man, for he was round- 
shouldered and loosely jointed. And besides these 
things he had a shambling, undecided gait and a 
furtive side-long glance, ever apparently searching 
for a potential foe. Yet with all his peculiarities 
I loved him, I never knew why. Perhaps it was 
the unfailing instinct of a child — I was scarcely 
more — for people whose hearts are kind. He was 
an A.B. on board of a lumbering old American- 
built ship owned in Liverpool and presently bound 
thence to Batavia. I was '' the boy " — that is to 
say, any job that a man could possibly growl 
himself out of or shirk in any way rapidly filtered 
down to me, mine by sea-right. And in my 
leisure I had the doubtful privilege of being body 
servant to eighteen men of mixed nationalities and 
a never-satisfied budget of wants. Of course she 
wasn't as bad as a Geordie collier, the old Tuc- 
soft. I didn't get booted about the head for 
every little thing, nor was I ever aroused out of 
a dead sleep to hand a fellow a drink of water 


A Sack of Shakings 

who was sitting on the breaker. Nevertheless, being 
nobody's especial fancy and fully conscious of 
my inability to take my own part, I was certainly 
no pampered menial. 

They were a queer lot, those fellows. Nothing 
strange in that, of course, so far, remembering 
how ships' crews are made up nowadays, but 
these were queer beyond the average. In the 
first place no two of them were countrymen. 
There were representatives of countries I had till 
then been ignorant of. The '^boss" of the fo'c's'le 
was a huge Montenegrin, who looked to my ex- 
cited fancy like a bandit chief, and used to talk 
in the worst-sounding lingo I ever heard with 
Giuseppe from Trieste and Antone from Patras. 
Louis Didelot, a nimble black-avised little inatelot 
from Nantes, was worst off for communication 
with his shipmates, not one of whom could speak 
French, but somehow he managed to rub along 
with a barbarous compound of French, Spanish, ^ 
and English. Neilsen chummed, as far as an 1 
occasional chat went, with a swarthy little Nor- 
wegian from Hammerfest (I believe he was a a 
Lapp), whose language did not seem to differ much 
from Danish. The rest of the crew were made 
up of negroes from various far-sundered lands, 
South American hybrids including one pure-blooded 
Mexican with a skin like copper, a Russian and 
two Malays. That fo'c's'le was Babel over again, 
although in some strange manner all seemed to 
find some sufficient medium for making themselves 
understood. On deck of course English (?) was 


By Way of Amends 

spoken, but such English as would puzzle the 
acutest linguist that ever lived if he wasn't a 
sailor-man too. Nothing could have borne more 
conclusive testimony to the flexibility of our noble 
tongue than the wav in which the business of 
that ship was carried on without any hitch by 
those British officers and their polyglot crew. And 
another thing — there were no rows. I have said 
that Sam the I^Iontenegrin (Heaven only knows 
what his name really was) was the boss of the 
fo'c's'le, but he certainly took no advantage of 
his tacitly accorded position, and except for the 
maddening mixture of languages our quarters were 
as quiet as any well-regulated household. 

But as long as I live I shall always believe that 
most, if not all, of our fellows were fugitives from 
justice, criminals of every stamp, and owing to 
the accident of their being thus thrown together 
in an easy-going English ship they were just en- 
joying a little off-season of rest prior to resuming 
operations in their respective departments when 
the voyage was over. I may be doing them an 
injustice, but as I picked up fragments of the 
various languages I heard many strange things, 
which, when I averaged them up, drove me to the 
conclusion I have stated. From none of them, 
however, did I get anything definite in the way 
of information about their past except Neilsen. 
He spoke excellent English, or American, with 
hardly a trace of Scandinavian accent, and often, 
when sitting alone in the dusk of the second dog- 
watch on the spars lashed along by the bulwarks. 

A Sack of Shakings 

I used to hear him muttering to himself in that 
tongue, every now and then giving vent to a 
short barking laugh of scorn. I was long getting 
into his confidence, for he shrank from all society, 
preferring to squat wdth his chin supported on 
both hands staring at vacancy and keeping up an 
incessant muttering. But at last the many little 
attentions I managed to show him thawed his atti- 
tude of reserve towards me a little, and he permitted 
me to sit by his side and prattle to him of my 
Arab life in London, and of my queer experiences 
in the various ways of getting something to eat 
before I went to sea. Even then he would often 
scare me just as I w^as in the middle of a yarn by 
throwing up his head and uttering his bark of 
disdain, following it up immediately by leaving me. 
Still I couldn't be frightened of him, although I 
felt certain he was a little mad, and I persevered, 
taking no notice of his eccentricities. At last we 
became great friends, and he would talk to me 
sanely by the hour, when during the stillness of 
the shining night-watches all our shipmates, except 
the helmsman and look-out man, were curled up 
in various corners asleep. 

So matters progressed until we were half-way 
up the Indian Ocean from St. Paul's. One night 
in the middle watch I happened to say (in what 
connection I don't know), *' It's my birthday to- 
day. I'm thirteen." '* Why, what day is it den ? " 
he said listlessly. ''The 25th of June," I replied. 
" My God ! my God ! " he murmured softly, burying 
his face in his hands and trembling violently. I 


By Way of Amends 

was so badly scared I could say nothing for a few 
minutes, but sat wondering whether the moon, 
which was literally blazing down upon us out of 
the intense clearness above, had affected his weak 
brain. Presently he seemed to get steadier, and 
I ventured to touch his arm and say, ''Ain't you 
well, Xeilsen ? Can I get you anythin'?" There 
was silence for another short spell. Then he 
suddenly lifted his head, and said, not looking at 
me, but straight before him, "Yes, I vill tell him. 
I must tell him." Then, still without looking at 
me, he went on — " Boy, I'm goin' t' tell ye a yarn 
about myself, somethin' happened to me long time 
ago. Me an' my chum, a little Scotch chap, was 
'fore de mast aboard of a Yank we'd shipped in 
in Liverpool. She wuz a reg'lar blood - boat. 
You've herd o' de kind, I 'spose, no watch an' 
watch all day, everythin' polished 'n painted till 
you c'd see y'r face in it 'low and aloft. Ole man 
'n three mates alwas pradin' roun' 'ith one han' 
on their pistol pockets 'n never a 'norder give widout 
a ' Gaw - dam - ye ' to ram it down like. I tell ye 
wot 'tis ; sailors offen tawk 'bout hell erflote, but 
der ain't menny off 'em knows wot it means, leest 
not nowdays. I've sailed in de packets, the 
Westerun oshun boats I mean, under some toughs, 
'fore steam run 'em off, an' I 'low dey wuz hard — 
forrard 's well's aft — but, boy, dey wuz church, 
dey wuz dat, 'longside the ' Zekiel B. Peck, W'y ! 
dey tort nuttin', nuttin 'tall, ov scurfin' ye way 
frum de wheel, you a doin' yer damdest too, ter 
pint her troo d' eye ov a needle, 'n lammin' th' 


A Sack of Shakings 

very Gawdfergotten soul out ov yer jest ter keep 
der 'and in like. I wuz a dam site biggern dose 
days den I am now, fur I wuz straight ez a spruce 
tree 'n limber too, I wuz ; but I got my 'lowance 
reglar 'n took it lyin' down too like de rest. 'N 
so I s'pose 'twoud a gone on till we got to 'Frisco 
an' de blood -money men come and kicked us out 
ov her as ushal. Only suthin' happend. Seems 
ter me suthin's alwus a happenin' wot ye ain't 
recknd on, but sum things happen like 's if de 
devil jammed a crowbar inter ye somewheres 'n 
hove de bes' part of ye inter hell wile de rest ov 
ye goes a grubbin' along everlastingly lookin' fer 
wot ye lost an' never findin' it. Well, 'twuz like 
dis ; we wuz a creepin' along up de coast ov 
Lower California, de weadder bein' beastly, nuttin' 
but one heavy squall on top of anoder, 'n de wind 
a flyin' all round de compass. It wuz all ban's, 
all ban's night 'n day, wid boot 'n blayin' pin ter 
cheer us up, till we wuz more like a crowd o' 
frighten d long-shoremen dan a crew o' good sailor- 
men. One forenoon, 'bout seven bells, we'd ben 
a shortenin' down at de main 'n wuz all a comin' 
down helter-skelter, de mate n' tird mate standin' 
by in the skuppers as ushal to belt each man as 
he touched de deck fer not bein' smarter. I come 
slidin' down de topmast backstays 'n dropped on to 
de deck jest be'ind de mate as Scotty, my chum, 
landed in front ov him. De mate jest let out and 
fetched Scotty in the ear. Pore ole chap, he 
flung up his arms, 'n spoutin' blood like a whale, 
dropped all ov a heap in his tracks. I don't 


By Way of Amends 

rightly know how 'twuz, but next ting I'd got de 
mate ('n he wuz nearly as big as Sam) by de two 
ankles, a swingin' him roun' my head 'sif he wuz 
a capsan-bar. He hit sometin', I spose it wuz 
de topsl-halliard block, 'n it sounded like a bag 
ov eggs. De rest ov de purceedins wuz all foggy 
like to me, 'cept dat I was feelin' 'bout as big 'n 
strong as twenty men rolled inter one 'n I seemed 
ter be a smashin' all creation into bloody pieces. 
I herd de poppin' ov revolver shots in hunderds, 
but I didn't feel none ov 'em. Presently it all 
quieted down 'n dere wuz me a settin' on de deck 
in de wash ov de lee scuppers a nursin' Scotty 
like a baby 'n him a lookin' up at me silly-like. 
The ship was all aback an de rags ov most ov 
the canvas wuz slattin' 'n treshin' like bullock 
whips, while long pennants of canvas clung to de 
riggin' all over her. I put Scotty down 'n gets 
up on my feet to hev a look roun'. De deck was 
like a Saladero, dead bodies a lyin' about in all 
directions. Seein' Scotty standin' up holdin' on ter 
de pin-rail I sez to him, ' Scotty, what in hell's de 
matter, hev we ben struck by lightnin'?' He jest 
waggled his head 'sif he wuz drunk 'n sez, 'Yes, 
chum, I guess we hev. Ennyhow I'm glad ter see 
it's hit de right ones.' 'N den he laughed. 'Sounded 
like breakin' dishes it did.' Well, I begun to git 
scared 'cause I couldn't sort it out at all, until 
some ov de other fellers come from somewhere, 
'n we sot down along de spars while dey told 
me, all de while keepin' deir eyes on me, 'n lookin' 
's if dey w^uz ready to git up and scoot if I moved. 

A Sack of Shakings 

It 'peared I'd simply sailed in 'sif I'd ben made of 
iron, 'n slaughtered dem officers right an' left with 
nottin' but me bare hands 'n takin' no more 
notice of deir six-shooters dan if dey'd ben pea- 
guns. I wonderd wot made me feel so stiff an 
sore here and dere, seems I'd got two or tree 
bullets plugged inter me while we wuz playin' de 
game. 'N right in de dick of it, down comes a 
reglar hurrikin squall ketchin' her flat aback 'n 
rippin de kites offn her 'sif dey wuz paper. Most 
o' de fellers, seein' de hand I had, chipped in, 'n 
two ov em laid quiet 'longside ov de oder corpses. 
It wuz a reglar clean sweep. All tree mates, car- 
penter, and stooard, an de ole man, blast him, wuz 
dead, 'n dey said I'd killed em all. Well, I cou'dn't 
conterdickt em, but somehow I didn't feel s'if 'twas 
true, I didn't feel bothered a bit about it, 'n as ter 
feelin' sorry — why 1 wuz just as contented as a 
hog in a corn-bin. But sometin' had ter be done 
fer we none of us tought de late officers ov de 
' Zekiel B, Feck wort hangin' fur, so we made shift 
to run her in fur de land, due East. When we 
got widin twenty mile ov it we pervisioned a 
couple ov boats an' set fire to her, waitin' till she 
got well a goin', 'n den lowerin' 'n pullin' fur de 
beach. We didn't take nuttin' but some grub, dere 
warnt a pirut among us, an we 'ranged ter separate 
soon's we got ashore, after we'd smashed de boats 
up. It come off all right, 'n me and Scotty wandered 
up country till we got steady work on a ranch (sort 
o' farm) an' w^e 'lowed we wouldn't never go to 
sea no more. We wuz very happy for 'bout a , 


By Way of Amends 

year until Scotty begun ter weaken on me. He'd 
picked up wid some gal at a place a few mile 
off 'n I wuz out of it. He useter leave me alone 
.night after night, knowin' he wuz all de world ter 
me, knowin' too det I'd gin a good many men's 
blood fer his'n. Last we fell out, 'n after a many 
words 'd been slung between us, he upn and call 
me a bloody murderer. 'Twuz all over in a second, 
'n I wuz nussin' him in my arms agen like I did 
once before, but his head hung over limp, his 
neck wuz broke. 'N I ben talkin' to him ever 
sence 'n tellin' him how I'd gin forty hves ef I 
had'm ter see him chummy wit me agen, but I 
never get no answer." 

He stopped, and almost immediately "eight bells" 
struck. I went below and slept my allotted time, 
waking at the hoarse row of '' Now then you 
sleepers, seven bells," to get the breakfast in. 
The morning passed in humdrum fashion, the wind 
having dropped to almost a dead calm. After 
dinner I was looking over the side at the lovely 
cool depths smiling beneath, and the fancy suddenly 
seized me to have a dip, as I had often done 
before, although never in that ship. I could swim, 
but very httle, so I made a bowline in the end 
of a rope, and making it fast so that about a 
couple of fathoms would trail in the water, I 
stripped in the chains, slipped the bowline over 
my head and under my arms, and slid down into 
the sea. It was just heavenly. But I found the 
ship was slipping along through the water just a 
little. So much the better. Putting my left arm 

369 2 A 

A Sack of Shakings 

out like an oar I sheered away from the side 
until the rope that held me was out straight, and 
there was a wide gap of blue between me and 
the black hull of the ship. I was enjoying myself 
in perfect fashion when suddenly I saw a huge 
black shadow stealing upward from under the 
ship's bottom towards me, and immediately, my 
bowels boiling with fear, I lost all my strength, my 
arms flew up and I slipped out of the loop. I 
heard a splash, and close beside me an awful 
struggle began while I lay in full possession of 
all my senses, just floating without motion. Neilsen 
had sprung into the sea and seized the shark by 
the tail, being all unarmed. Suddenly I felt the 
coils of a rope fall upon me, and with a sense of 
returning life I clutched them, and was presently 
hauled on board. I must have fainted, for when 
I again realised my surroundings Neilsen was lying 
on deck near me, a wide red stream creeping 
slowly down from him to the scuppers. Opening 
his eyes as I staggered to my feet, he said feebly, 
'' Dis'll pay, won't it, boy?" and died. 



Towering in lonely majesty for two thousand feet 
above the blue waters of Foveaux Strait, the mighty 
mass of the Solander Rock seems to dominate that 
stormy region like some eternal sentinel set to hail 
the coming of the flying fleets of the northern hemi- 
sphere to the brave new world of New Zealand. 
To all appearance it is perfectly inaccessible, its 
bare weather-stained sides, buffeted by the tempests 
of ages, rising sheer from a depth of hundreds of 
fathoms without apparently a ledge or a crevice 
wherein even a goat could find precarious foothold. 
Not that landing would be practicable even were 
there any jutting shelves near the water's edge ; 
for exposed as the rock is to the full range of the 
Southern Ocean, it must perforce meet continually 
with the effects of all the storms that are raging 
right round the southern slopes of this planet of 
ours, since there is absolutely nothing to hinder 
their world-engirdling sweep in those latitudes. Even 
when, as happens at rare intervals, the unwearying 
west wind stays for a brief space its imperial 
march to meet the rising sun, and the truce of 
storm and sea broods over the deep in a hush like 
the peace of God, the glassy bosom of the ocean 
still undulates as if with the throbbing of earth's 

A Sack of Shakings 

heart, a pulse only to be timed by the horology 
of Creation. That almost imperceptible upheaval 
of the sea-surface, meeting in its gliding sweep with 
the Solander Rock, rises in wrathful protest, the 
thunders of its voice being audible for many miles ; 
while torn into a thousand whirling eddies, its 
foaming crests chafe and grind around the stead- 
fast base of the solitary mountain, in a series of 
overfalls that would immediately destroy any vessel 
of man's building that became involved therein. 
And this in a stark calm. But in a gale, especially 
one that is howHng from Antarctica to Kerguelen 
— from Tristan d'Acunha to the Snares — over the 
most tremendous waste of waters this earth can 
show, then is the time to see the Solander. Like 
a never-ending succession of mountain ranges with 
snowy summits and gloomy declivities streaked with 
white, the storm waves of the Southern Sea come 
rushing on. Wide opens the funnel of Foveaux 
Strait before them, fifty miles from shore to shore 
at its mouth, and in its centre, confronting them 
alone, stands the great Rock. They hurl themselves 
at its mass, their impact striking a deeper note than 
that of the storm ; as if the foundations of the 
earth were jarred and sent upward through all her 
strata a reply to the impetuous ocean. Baffled, 
dashed into a myriad hissing fragments, the sea 
recoils until the very root-hold of the rock is re- 
vealed to the day, and its strange inhabitants blink 
glassily at the bright glare of the sun. Then are 
the broken masses of the beaten wave hurled aloft 
by the scourging wind until the topmost crag 

The Mystery of the '^ Solander " 

streams with the salt spray and all down the 
deeply -scored sides flows the foaming brine. So 
fierce and continuous is the assault that the Rock 
is often invisible, despite its huge mass, for hours 
together, or only dimly discernible through the 
spindrift like a sombre spectre, the gigantic spirit of 
the storm. Only the western face of the Solander 
is thus assaulted. For to the eastward the Straits 
narrow rapidly until at their outlet there is but 
two or three miles of open water. Therefore that 
side of the Rock is always comparatively peaceful 
above high-water mark. During the fiercest storm, 
the wind, meeting this solid obstruction, recoils 
from itself, making an invisible cushion of air all 
around the mountain, within the limits of which it 
is calm except on the side remote from the wind, 
where a gentle return breeze may be felt. But 
down below a different state of things prevails. 
The retreat of the mighty waves before that im- 
movable bastion drags after them all the waters 
behind it, so that there is created a whirlpool that 
need fear no comparison with the Maelstrom. Its 
indraught may be felt at a great distance, and 
pieces of wreckage are collected by it until the 
tormented waters are bestrewn with debris twirling 
in one mad dance about those polished cliffs. 

It is therefore easy to understand why the Solan- 
der Rock is left lonely. Passing merchantmen give 
it a wide berth, wisely judging the vicinity none 
too safe. Fishermen in this region there are none. 
Only the whalers, who knew the western end of 
Foveaux Straits as one of the most favourite haunts 


A Sack of Shakings 

of the sperm whale, cruised about and about it 
for weeks and months at a stretch, Hke shadowy 
squadrons of a bygone day irresistibly held in a 
certain orbit by the attraction of the great Rock 
and doomed to weave sea-patterns around it for 
ever. One by one they have disappeared until now 
there are none left, and the Solander alone keeps 
the gate. 

Now at a certain period of a long voyage I once 
made as a seaman on board a South Sea '' Spouter," 
it befell that we descended from the balmy latitudes 
near the Line, where we had been cruising for 
many months with little success, to see whether 
better luck might await us on the stormy Solander 
'Aground." From the first day of our arrival there 
the old grey mountain seemed to exercise a strange 
fascination upon the usually prosaic mind of our 
elderly skipper. Of romance or poetic instinct he 
did not seem to possess a shade, yet for many an 
hour he would lean motionless over the weather 
rail, his keen eyes steadily fixed upon the sphinx- 
like mass around which we slowly cruised. He 
was usually silent as if dumb, but one morning 
when we were about ten miles to the westward of 
the Rock, I happened to be at the wheel as the 
sun was rising. The skipper was lolling over the 
quarter, pipe in mouth, his chin supported upon 
his left hand, apparently lost in thought. Suddenly 
the dark outlines of the Rock became illuminated, 
the abrupt angles of its crags took on a shimmering 
haze of tenderest glow, while from the jagged 
summits a lovely coronal of radiant colour shot 


The Mystery of the " Solander " 

forth delicate streamers into the clear morning sky. 
Towards us from the Rock's black base crept a 
mighty sombre shadow whose edges were so dazzling 
in brilliance as to be painful to look upon. As this 
marvellous picture caught my dull eyes I held my 
breath, while a strange tightening of the skin over 
my head bore witness to the awe I felt. Then the 
skipper spoke, unconscious I believe that he was 
uttering his thoughts aloud — ^' Great God ! haouw 
merv'llous air Thy works. The hull airth an' the 
sea also ez full o' Thy glory." There was utter 
silence again while the glow deepened into blazing 
gold, crimson lances radiated from the central dark 
into the deep blue around until they mellowed off 
into emerald and violet, and then — the culminating 
point of the vision — the vast fervent disc of the 
sun crowned the mountain with a blaze of ineffable 

Meanwhile w^e were steadily nearing the Rock, 
and as the wind freed a point or two we headed 
straight for its centre, the vessel being close-hauled 
on the starboard tack. The bright day came full 
circle, the ordinary everyday duties of the ship 
began, but still the skipper moved not, still I steered 
directly for the mountain's broad base. I noted 
several curious glances cast by the two busy officers, 
first at the Rock and then at the motionless skipper, 
but they offered no remarks. Nearer and nearer 
we drew until a great black space opened up in the 
centre of the huge cliffs, looking like some enormous 
cave extending far into the heart of the moun- 
tain as we rapidly lessened our distance from it, 


A Sack of Shakings 

and what was at first only a supposition became 
a certainty — that enormous mass of rock was hollow. 
At last when we were within a mile of it the skipper 
ordered me to keep her away a couple of points, 
and had the yards checked in a little. Then, bi- 
nocular in hand, he mounted to the main-top and 
gazed long and earnestly into the gloom of that 
tremendous cavern, whose floor was at least fifty 
feet above high-water mark. In and out of it flew 
a busy company of sea-birds, their snow-white 
wings gleaming brightly against the dark back- 
ground. We were so close now that we could 
hear the sullen murmur of the restless waters 
about the base of those wall-like cliffs, and even 
w^ith the unassisted eye could see a considerable 
distance within. Much anxiety began to be mani- 
fested by all except the skipper, for everybody 
knew well how strong an inset is always experi- 
enced in such positions. And as we got dead to 
leeward of the rock we lost the wind — it was shut 
off from us by that immense barrier. All hands 
were now on deck, and as ^' eight bells " was struck 
the crisp notes came back to us with startling 
distinctness from the innermost recesses of the great 
cavern. It was undoubtedly a trying moment for 
us all, for we did not know what was going to 
happen. But the old man descended leisurely, 
saying to the mate as his foot touched the deck, 
" I'd give five hundred dollars to be able to look 
round that ther hole. Ef thar ain't suthin' on- 
common to it I'm a hoss." ^'Wall, Cap'n," answered 

The Mystery of the '' Solander " 

Mr. Peck, *' 1 guess one o' these yer Kanakas 'd 
hev'n all-fired hard dig at it fur a darn sight less 
'n that. But doan' ye think we mout so well be 
gittin' a bit ov'n offin' ? I'm er soshibul man m'self, 
'n thet's a fack, but I'll be gol durned ef I wouldn't 
jest 's lieve be a few mile further away 's not." 
As he spoke the reflex eddy of the wind round the 
other side of the rock filled our head sails and 
we paid off to leeward smartly enough. A sensa- 
tion of rehef rippled through all hands as the good 
old tub churned up the water again and slipped 
away from that terribly dangerous vicinity. 

The old man's words having been plainly heard 
by several of us, there was much animated discus- 
sion of them during that forenoon watch below 
to the exclusion of every other topic. As many 
different surmises were set afloat as to what the 
mystery of that gloomy abyss might be as there 
were men in our watch, but finally we all agreed 
that whatever it was the old man would find a w^ay 
to unravel it if it was within the range of human 
possibility. A week passed away, during which the 
weather remained wonderfully fine, a most unusual 
occurrence in that place. A big whale was caught, 
and the subsequent proceedings effectually banished 
all thoughts of the mystery from our minds for 
the time ; but when the ship had regained her 
normal neatness and the last traces of our greasy 
occupation had been cleared away, back with a 
swing came the enthralling interest in that cave. 
Again we headed up for the rock with a failing air 


A Sack of Shakings 

of wind that finally left us when we were a scant 
two miles from it. Then two sturdy little Kanakas, 
who had lately been holding interminable consulta- 
tions with each other, crept aft and somehow made 
the old man understand that they were willing to 
attempt the scaling of that grim ocean fortress. 
Their plan of campaign was simple. A boat was 
to take them in as close as was prudent, carrying 
three whale lines, or over 5000 feet. Each of 
them would have a ''Black fish poke" or bladder 
which is about as big as a four-gallon cask, and 
when fully inflated is capable of floating three men 
easily. They would also take with them a big coil 
of stout fishing-line which when they took the water 
they would pay out behind them, one end being 
secured to the boat. Thus equipped, they felt con- 
fident of being able to effect a landing. Without 
hesitation, such was his burning desire to know 
more about that strange place, he accepted the 
brave little men's offer. No time was lost. In less 
than a quarter of an hour all was ready, and away 
went the boat, manned by five of our best men 
and steered by the skipper himself. She was soon 
on the very margin of safety, and without a moment's 
hesitation away went the daring darkies. Like seals 
they dodged the roaring eddies, as if amphibious, 
they slacked off their bladders and dived beneath 
the ugly combers that now and then threatened to 
hurl them against the frowning face of the rock. 
Suddenly one of them disappeared entirely. We 
thought he had been dashed to pieces and had 


The Mystery of the ^'Solander" 

sunk, but almost immediately the other one vanished 
also. Hardly a breath was drawn among us, our 
hearts stood still. The skipper's face was a study 
in mental agony. Silently he signed to us to pull 
a stroke or two although already we were in a 
highly dangerous position. What we felt none of 
us could describe when, sending all the blood 
rushing to our heads, we heard an eldritch yell 
multiplied indefinitely by a whole series of echoes. 
And there high above our heads on the brink of 
the cave stood the two gallant fellows apparently 
frantic with delight. A big tear wandered reluctantly 
down each of the skipper's rugged cheeks as he 
muttered " Starn all," and in obedience to his order 
the boat shot seaward a few lengths into safety. 
Thus we waited for fully an hour, while the two 
Kanakas were invisible, apparently busy with their 
explorations. At last they appeared again, holding 
up their hands as if to show us something. Then 
they shouted some indistinct words which by the 
gestures that accompanied them we took to mean 
that they would now return. Again they disappeared, 
but in less than five minutes we saw them battling 
with the seething surf once more. Now we could 
help them, and by hauling steadily on the fishing- 
lines we soon had them in the boat and were 
patting their smooth brown backs. They said that 
they had found a sort of vertical tunnel whose 
opening was beneath the water, which they had 
entered by diving. It led right up into the cave, 
which was of tremendous extent, so large, in fact, 


A Sack of Shakings 

that they had not explored a tenth of it. But not 
far from its entrance they had found the bones 
of a man ! By his side lay a sheath-knife and a 
brass belt buckle. Nothing more. And the mystery 
of the Solander was deeper than ever. We never 
again attempted its solution. 



Once more the logic of events is compelling the 
attention of all and sundry to the fact, hardly 
realised by the great majority of people, that in 
the personnel of the Navy we have a force of 
warriors that on land as well as at sea have not 
their equals in the world. The overwhelming pre- 
ponderance of our naval power deprives these 
magnificent men of the opportunity to show an 
astounded world what they are capable of on their 
own element ; how they can handle the terrible 
engines of war with which modern engineering 
science has equipped them ; but in spite of the 
fact that as a nation we know little of the doings 
of our new Navy upon the sea, there is undoubtedly 
a solid simple faith in its absolute pre-eminence. 
Like the deeds of all true heroes, the work of our 
sailors is done out of sight ; there are no applaud- 
ing crowds to witness the incessant striving after 
perfection that goes on in our ships of war. We 
rarely see a company of bluejackets ashore unless 
we have the good fortune to live at some of the 
ports favoured by men-o'-war. There, if we feel 
interested, we may occasionally get a glimpse of a 
drill-party landed, and watch the way in which 
Jack handles himself and his weapons freed from 
the hampering environment of his ship's decks. And 


A Sack of Shakings 

to those who enjoy the spectacle of a body of men 
at the highest pitch of physical development, clothed 
in garments that permit the utmost freedom of 
limb, and actuated every one by an intelligent desire 
after perfection, the sight is worth any trouble to 
obtain. Really, it is ''heady" as strong wine. To 
the dash and enthusiasm of public-school boys the 
men unite an intense pride in their profession and 
an intellectual obedience that is amazing to the 

Yet it should be remembered that shore-drill is 
for them only a small interlude, an occasional 
break in the constant stream of duties that claims 
every unit on board of a man-o'-war throughout 
each working day. There is so very much to do 
in the keeping up to perfect fitness of the vast 
complication of a modern ship of war that only 
the most careful organisation and apportionment of 
duties makes the performance possible. But sand- 
wiched in between such routine work comes so 
great a variety of marine evolutions that the mind 
is staggered to contemplate them. It would be 
well for all landsmen reading of the doings of a 
Naval Brigade ashore to remember this — to bear 
in mind that if Jack excels as a soldier, preparation 
for which duty is made in the merest fag-ends and 
scraps of his time, he is superexcellent in the per- 
formance of his main business, which he does in 
the privacy of the sea, with only the approval of 
his superior officers — and his pride in the British 
Navy — to encourage him. How would it be possible 
to convey to the lay mind the significance of even 


Our Amphibious Army 

one of these complicated evolutions that are sprung 
upon Jack at all sorts of times without a moment's 
warning ? How reveal the significance of such a 
manifestation of readiness for all emergencies as is 
show^n by, say, the bugle-call ^'Prepare for action"? 
The ship is in a state of normal peace. Every 
member of the crew is engaged either upon such 
private matters as making or mending clothes, 
school-room duties, or other domestic relaxations 
peculiar to a watch below ; or on the never-ending 
work of cleaning steel and brass, &c., that must 
be done whatever goes undone. At the first note 
of alarm every one springs to attention, before 
half the tune has vibrated they are swarming like 
bees round an overturned hive, and bv the time 
that any ordinary individual would have realised 
the import of the command the whole interior of 
the ship is transformed. Great masses of iron that 
look immovable as if built into the hull have dis- 
appeared, every aperture whereby water could gain 
access below is hermetically sealed, each subdivision 
of the ship is isolated by water-tight doors, and 
from hidden depths with ponderous clangour is 
rising the food for the shining monsters above. 
The racks are stripped of revolvers and cutlasses, 
the mess-traps and tables have disappeared from 
the lower deck, and, showing all her teeth, the 
mighty weapon of war is ready for the foe. If the 
watchful head of affairs has noted with satisfaction 
the number of minutes absorbed in this general 
upheaval of things, his word or two of approval 
circulates with electric swiftness from fighting-top 


A Sack of Shakings 

to torpedo-flat ; should he frown darkly upon a 
few seconds' delay, there is gloom on all faces and 
frantic searching of heart among those who may be 
held responsible therefor. 

For be it noted that the perfunctory leisurely 
performance of any duty is unthinkable in the 
Navy. The Scriptural injunction, ^'Whatsoever thy 
hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," is fully 
acted upon there, not only by command, but with 
the gleeful co-operation of those commanded. And 
hence it is that whenever a Naval Brigade is called 
upon for service ashore, their behaviour is such as 
to call for wonder and admiration even from those 
who know least about the difficulties they overcome. 
Their high spirits, the frolicsome way in which 
they attack the most tremendous tasks, compel 
even their bitterest enemies to bear witness in 
their favour, while hardships that would disable 
or dishearten landsmen only seem to heighten their 
enjoyment. It has often been said that during one 
of our West African campaigns the conduct of the 
Naval Brigade in one peculiar direction was unique. 
Orders had been given that in consequence of the 
danger of lying on the ground every man should 
collect a sufficient pile of brushwood upon which 
to raise his body while he slept. To the rank-and- 
file of the Army this duty, coming at the end of a 
fatiguing day's march, was a terrible one, although 
it was practically their only safeguard against disease. 
They wandered wearily about in the darkness seek- 
ing sticks for their couch, and trying all kinds of 
dodges to evade the salutary regulation. But Johnny 


Our Amphibious Army 

Haul-taut thought it fine fun. Not only was his 
pile of sticks collected in double-quick time, but 
he was noways backward in lending a helping hand 
to his less adaptable march-mates of the Army, and 
after that he had still so much superfluous energy 
to spare that he must needs dance a great deal 
before retiring to rest, flinging himself about in 
uproarious merriment while tired soldiers were still 
seeking material for their couches. 

Amid all the revenges that time affords the sons 
of men, could there be anything more dramatic 
than that exemplified by the relative positions of 
soldier and sailor to-day ? Recall the infant days 
of the Navy, when the sailor was looked upon as 
a base mechanic, one degree perhaps better than 
the galley-slave who, chained to the oar, enacted 
the part of machinery whereby the warship was 
brought into action, and lived or died as it might 
happen without ever having a say in the matter 
or an opportunity for self-defence. Picture the 
proud mail-clad warriors striding on board the 
ships, hardly deigning to notice the mariners who 
trimmed the sails and handled the vessels — mere 
rope-haulers, coarse and uncouth, destitute of any 
military virtues, and only fit, indeed, to be the 
humble attendants upon the behests of warlike 
men. Think of the general taking command of a 
fleet, fresh from leaguers and pitched battles ashore, 
and giving his orders to the ships as to a troop 
of horse. And then remember the great change 
in the relations of soldier and sailor now. Not 
only is the sailor a man of war from his youth 

385 2 B 

A Sack of Shakings 

up, but all his training tends to bring out resource- 
fulness, individuality, and self-reliance, not only in 
the officer but in the humblest seaman. Without 
in the least intending the very slightest disparage- 
ment to our gallant and able Army officers — men 
v^ho have proved their ability as well as their 
courage on so many battlefields — it may be per- 
missible to quote the recent words of a first-class 
petty officer, a bos'un's mate on board of one 
of her Majesty's ships, w^ho said : '' There ain't a 
General livin' as can handle a fleet, but I'll back 
e'er a one of our Admirals to handle an army 
agenst the smartest General we've got." He pro- 
bably meant an army of sailors, for the behaviour 
of even the finest troops would hardly satisfy the 
ideas of smartness held by an Admiral. He has 
been taught to expect his men to combine the 
characteristics of cats, monkeys, game-cocks, and 
bulldogs, with a high order of human intelligence 
to leaven the whole. Remembering all this, it 
would be interesting to know, if the knowledge 
were to be had, the history of the struggle that 
resulted in the sailor throwing off the rule of the 
soldier at sea. That it w^as long and bitter, admits 
of no doubt, for it has left its traces even now, 
traces that it would, perhaps, be invidious to point 
out. Foreign critics sneer at most things English, 
and institute unfavourable comparisons, but it is 
gratifying to note that such comparisons are never 
made between the British naval officer and any 
other warriors soever. The task would, indeed, be 
an ungrateful one for any critic attempting it in 


Our Amphibious Army 

the hope of proving shortcomings on the part of 
these splendid sailors — well, perhaps the word 
''sailors" will hardly fit them now. The handling 
of ships still forms an important part of their 
manifold duties, but when one realises what their 
scientific pittainments must be in order to discharge 
all those duties, it becomes quite a mental problem 
how ever the naval officer of to-day manages to 
know so much at such an age as he usually is 
when he becomes a Lieutenant. That he does 
manage it we all know, and not only so, but, 
instead of shrivelling up into a sapless, spectacled 
student, he retains a sparkling boyishness of de- 
meanour, a readiness for fun and frolic of all kinds 
that IS contagious, making the most morbid visitor 
admitted to intimate acquaintanceship with the life 
of a warship feel as if the weight of years had 
suddenly been lifted from him. 

With that keen insight which always characterises 
him, Mr. Kipling has noted in marvellous language 
what he terms the almost '' infernal mobility" of a 
battleship's crew — how at a given signal there 
suddenly bursts from her grim sides a fleet of 
boats, warships in miniature, each self-contained 
and full of possibilities of destruction. The sight 
of '' Man and arm boats " simultaneously carried 
out in less than a dozen minutes by every ship in 
a squadron, the sudden mobilisation of an army 
numbering between two and three thousand per- 
fectly equipped sinewy men in whose vocabulary 
the word ''impossible" has no place, is one that 
should be witnessed bv every thoughtful citizen who 

■ 387 

A Sack of Shakings 

would understand the composition of our first line 
of defence. Better still, perhaps, that he should 
see the operation performed of transhipping guns, 
such guns as those landed by the tars of the 
Powerful and used with such effect at Ladysmith. 
One would like to know for certain whether it is 
true, as reported, that her 6-inch rifles were landed 
as well as the 4.7 guns. The latter were a handful, 
no doubt, but the former ! They are twenty feet 
long, they weigh seven tons, and have a range of 
11,000 yards; — penetration at 1000 yards, 11.6 inch 
of iron. Yet it is reported that some of these pretty 
playthings w^ere landed by the bluejackets, mounted 
on carriages designed by one of their officers and 
built by the ship's artificers, and taken up country 
into action. Truly a feat worthy of Titans. 

Is it any wonder that Jack is proud of his shore- 
fighting record ? Wherever and whenever he has 
been permitted to join in the work of the Army 
he has made his mark so deeply that he has come 
to be looked upon as indispensable, invincible. His 
effervescent humour never seems to desert him, as 
the following anecdote, told the writer recently, 
fairly well illustrates. It was at Gingihlovo, and the 
Naval Brigade was face to face with an apparently 
overwhelming force of Zulus, numbers of whom 
were armed with rifles. The sailors were reserving 
their fire, only sending an occasional volley when 
a favourable opportunity presented itself. Forth 
from the Zulu host stepped a warrior laden with 
an ancient firearm, which he calmly mounted upon 
a tripod in the open, while the sailors looked on 


Our Amphibious Army 

admiring his pluck, but wondering much what he 
was proposing to do. At last one jovial tar sug- 
gested that their photographs were going to be 
taken, and, by common consent, no shots were 
sent at the supposed photographer. Having loaded 
his piece with great deliberation, the Zulu primed 
it, sighted, and, leaning hard against its breech, he 
fired. The recoil — for the thing was much over- 
loaded — knocked him head over heels backward, 
while a great roar of laughter went up from the 
delighted sailors. He sat up looking hurt and 
dazed, and then, the amusement over, he, along 
with a suddenly charging impi of his countrymen, 
w^ere annihilated by a volley from the steadily 
aimed pieces of the little cheerful band of blue- 


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson <^ Co. 
Edinburgh cr' London 





This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 
on the date to which renewed. 

Renewed books are subjea to immediate recall. 



APR 7 I9S.q 



SEP 12 196b 

^^0*7 1971 J 



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(6889sl0)476B University of California 
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